Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

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Hearts of Darkness:
A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Fax Bahr
  • George Hickenlooper
Produced by
Edited by
  • Michael Greer
  • Jay Miracle
Music byTodd Boekelheide
Distributed byTriton Pictures
Release date
  • November 27, 1991 (1991-11-27)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse is a 1991 American documentary film about the production of Apocalypse Now, a 1979 Vietnam War epic directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Synopsis and production[edit]

Hearts of Darkness chronicles how production problems—among them bad weather, actors' poor health, and other issues—delayed the filming of Apocalypse Now, increasing costs and nearly destroying the life and career of its director, Francis Ford Coppola.

The documentary was begun by Coppola's wife, Eleanor Coppola, who narrated behind-the-scenes footage. In 1990, Coppola turned her material over to two young filmmakers, George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr (co-creator of MADtv), who subsequently shot new interviews with the original cast and crew, and intercut them with Eleanor Coppola's material. After a year of editing, Hickenlooper, Bahr, and Coppola debuted their film at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

The title is derived from the Joseph Conrad 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, the source material for Apocalypse Now.


Originally aired on the Showtime Network in the United States, Hearts of Darkness won several awards, among them the National Board of Review award for Best Documentary, 1991; an American Cinema Editors society award for Best Edited Documentary (1992); two Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awards for "Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Directing" and "Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Picture Editing" (1992), and the International Documentary Association award (1992). Critic Gene Siskel listed it as the best movie of 1991.

Home media[edit]

Hearts of Darkness was released by Paramount Home Video on VHS and LaserDisc in 1992, with further re-releases occurring in 1994 and 1998. Paramount later released the film on DVD on November 20, 2007.[3] That version includes a commentary track from both Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola, recorded separately, and a bonus documentary entitled Coda, about Coppola's film Youth Without Youth.

The film is also available on Blu-ray in the Full Disclosure (2010) and Final Cut (2019) editions of Apocalypse Now.[4]

Cultural references[edit]

A quote from the Coppola interview shown at the beginning of the film ("We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane") is sampled in UNKLE's song "UNKLE (Main Title Theme)", and also in the Cabaret Voltaire song "Project80" (as part of a larger sample from that interview).

Hearts of Dartmouth: Life of a Trailer Park Girl is a documentary about the making of the TV series Trailer Park Boys. It was directed and narrated by Annemarie Cassidy, then-wife of Trailer Park Boys director Mike Clattenburg.

An episode of the cartoon Animaniacs, "Hearts of Twilight", was a parody of the documentary.

The TV comedy Community the documentary is the basis of the episode "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux" - in which the character of Abed makes a Behind the Scenes documentary on the creation of a commercial for the Community College with Dean Pelton being the commercial's director who becomes eratic as the comerical's production goes out of control. Several character including guest star Luis Guzmán says "Yea but haven't you seen Hearts of Darkness? Way better than the-"[5]

On the DVD commentary of Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck reveal that Casey Affleck's line "I swallowed a bug" is a reference to Marlon Brando's line in the documentary. In the Joss Whedon film Serenity, River Tam has the same line.[citation needed]

The 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder parodies both Hearts of Darkness and Apocalypse Now.

See also[edit]

Other documentaries about troubled movie productions:


  1. ^ "HEARTS OF DARKNESS". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved December 3, 2017
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
  3. ^ "Home Cinema @ The Digital Fix - Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (R1) in November". Dvdtimes.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
  4. ^ "Apocalypse Now Blu-ray: Full Disclosure Edition". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 2017-11-11.
  5. ^ Russo, Joe (2011-11-17), Documentary Filmmaking: Redux, Community, retrieved 2023-01-22

External links[edit]