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History on Film: Apocalypse Now

History on Film: Apocalypse Now

Monday March 14, 2011

5pm - 7pm



Nothing brings history to life like seeing it on the big screen. The Department of Humanities is inviting you to come out for FREE SCREENINGS of critically acclaimed historical films, each representing a different period and theme in Canadian, American or world history.

Each evening will feature a short talk by a guest speaker who will set the film in its proper historical context, then invite students to participate in a free-r...anging open discussion afterward. The films will be of special interest to students of Canadian and American history, but everyone is welcome and no historical expertise is needed to enjoy yourself.

Everyone is welcome to attend, admission is FREE and so is the popcorn!


This screening will feature:

APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) w/ opening discussion by Prof Chris Berkowitz.

An American special forces officer is ordered to hunt down a rogue operative during the US-Vietnam War. Regarded as one of the masterpieces of American film history, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, and Harrison Ford.


An allegory: fourth century Christians as Taliban. Alexandria, 391: Hypatia teaches astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. Her student Orestes is in love with her as is Davus, her personal slave. As the city's Christians, led by Ammonius and Cyril, gain political power, the great institutions of learning and governance may not survive. Jump ahead 20 years: Orestes, the city's prefect, has an uneasy peace with Christians, led by Cyril. The Christians enforce public morality; first they see the Jews as their obstacle, then women. Hypatia has no interest in faith; she's concerned about the movement of celestial bodies and the brotherhood of all.


+ Marlon Brando was paid $1 million in advance. He threatened to quit and keep the advance. Coppola told his agent that he didn't care, and if they couldn't get Brando, they would try Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, and then Al Pacino. Brando eventually turned up late, drunk, 40kg overweight, and admitted he hadn't read the script or even "Heart of Darkness", the book it was based on.

+ The scene at the beginning with Captain Willard alone in his hotel room was completely unscripted. Martin Sheen told the shooting crew to just let the cameras roll. Sheen was actually drunk in the scene and punched the mirror which was real glass. Sheen also began sobbing and tried to attack Francis Ford Coppola. The crew was so disturbed by his actions that they wanted to stop shooting, but Coppola wanted to keep the cameras going.

+ Marlon Brando so angered Francis Ford Coppola that the director turned over the filming of Brando's scenes to Jerry Ziesmer, the assistant director.

+ Martin Sheen had a heart attack during the filming and some shots of Willard's back are of doubles, including Sheen's brother who was flown out specially. Coppola was so worried that backing would be withdrawn by the studio and distributor if news of Sheen's heart attack leaked out, that he kept it quiet, even to the extent of explaining Sheen's hospitalization as being due to "heat exhaustion" in the official Shoot Schedule.

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