Sidetracks: The Horror…

15 09 2008

Some interesting background bits regarding Apocalypse Now, from an article about Kok Ksor, the President of the Montagnard Foundation, Inc.

In one of the final scenes of Apocalypse Now Marlon Brando, tired of the war, gives direction to who was sent to kill him: “Go, and tell of the horror, remember the heart of darkness.” The multi-decorated Colonel Kurtz has to die because he does not obey the orders of the American General Staff: he has allied himself with an indigenous tribe and is conducting a personal war against the Viet Cong.

From the screen of a laptop, Kurtz/Brando is talking directly to him, to the Vietnamese who since 1975 travels the world to tell of the horror, the horror of then and the horror of now.

[The Montagnard people] were in the middle of [the war], and they saw everything, and they lived the horror to the end. “Yes, I saw it too” like Colonel Kurtz “piles of small arms of the children chopped off with machetes to terrorize the population, to convince them not to accept American help, not even for the Polio vaccination. (…)

At the beginning we did not want to take sides. But the Americans have used us: they allowed the Viet Cong to attack our villages, and for us it was almost impossible to defend ourselves. Then they promised that at the end of the war they would have helped us regain our independence. So we did take sides, and we have been the fiercest allies of the Americans. But not of the Generals or of the Politicians: of the soldiers, of the non-commissioned officers. For us it was people who had come to help us, had come to die of a country that was not their own. Yes, the loyalty of the tribe around Colonel Kurtz in the film is real. We are a very loyal people.

This lines bear certain irony, as the model role of John Wayne as the American super-soldier seems to be at least a little ambiguous (as stated here).


A great friend of ours was John Wayne, who came to us, at Pleiku, where the Fourth Infantry Division was stationed, to film “Green Berets”, that is the history of how for many years the American strategy has been simply to fortify our villages. I was 17 years old. In those months he lived with us, in the breaks of production he wanted that us kids took him to the jungle “to understand”. With him we built a special link. We gave him our sacred bracelet, a brass strip in the shape of an arrow, with the symbols of the animals we had sacrificed for him. He wore that bracelet until the last day of his life. Now I know that Francis Ford Coppola is also our friend: his movie is almost perfect in all the details when it tells about us.

Wikipedia on Kok Ksor


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