Apocalypse Now: Review

Watch and review a movie, documentary, fiction book, etc.  and assess it for reliability and value.

Trailer

Summary

Coppola’s choice of title, Apocalypse Now, already hints to the audience that the film entailed will feature some form of shocking revelation. The films has many visually scenic shots, the one which stood out to me most was “The Ride of the Valkyries”. These scenes are paired with an intense storyline about Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) assignment to capture and if necessary, murder the rouge Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has been rumoured to be living in the Cambodian jungle as a local “god” figure.

My Opinion

I personally enjoyed the film. It is a classic which has received very positive reviews, and with good reason. Coppola’s message of the dark, savage nature of war explores controversial and somewhat depressing ideas which many stereotypical war films avoid. Coppola has stated that whilst the film may be considered anti-war, Apocalypse Now is more about of an anti-lie film,  “...the fact that a culture can lie about what’s really going on in warfare, that people are being brutalized, tortured, maimed, and killed, and somehow present this as moral is what horrifies me, and perpetuates the possibility of war”. Whilst I do recommend this film for its different take on war, and its success in making the audience truly understand and be horrified at the horrors which took place in the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is quite long and dark, and therefore I personally do not recommend this film for your own entertainment.

 

In order to assess the reliability and value of the film, I will use OPVL to assess the source and its origins, as well as examine different examples of key points in the film which demonstrate historical accuracy/inaccuracy.

Key Historical Points in the Film

Apocalypse Now is somewhat accurate in the smaller, more general details of the Vietnam War, however is quite inaccurate in terms of the larger context and time of the film.

Characters

  • Apocalypse Now is an adaptation of the novel Heart of Darkness, so the specific storyline of the film is fictional. This includes the characters, such as  Captain Willard based on the novel’s protagonist Joseph Conrad and Colonel Kurtz obviously based on Kurtz.
  • The fictional characters can be seen as representing the lives of real people who experienced the Vietnam War. An example is the four soldiers who accompany Willard on his mission, who can be seen to loosely represent Americans who were drafted to America at the time.
  • However as the protagonists are based on a novel’s characters, their representation of the experiences of American soldiers in the Vietnam War is debatable.

Geography

  • Geography of the film is fairly accurate.
  • Saigon is featured as the capital of South Vietnam, which is true.
  • The Nung River is completely inaccurate, and does not exist. It does somewhat represent the Mekong river, however the North Vietnamese village (known was “charlie’s Point” is also not real.
  • The U.S supply depot at Hau Phat and the last U.S army outpost on the river at the Lu Dong Bridge are both not real.

 

Portrayal of Vietnamese/Vietnam

  • There are virtually no Vietnamese characters. Whilst Coppola declared his film was “not about Vietnam- it is Vietnam”, I can only remember one Vietnamese character saying a line.
  • The Vietnam War was essential a civil war, with North Vietnam and South Vietnam being the two major combatants. This is evident in casualty figures:
    • 1.1 million- North Vietnam
    • 2223,746- South Vietnam
    • 58,200- U.S.A
  • However, by focusing solely on the experience of American soldiers, the film appears to portray the Vietnam War as an American War simply set in Vietnam.
  • In one scene there is an arrow and spear attack in the Vietnamese Jungle. This scene was based off of Heart of Darkness, where a river boat pilot is impaled by a spear. This scene in Apocalypse Now is highlight inaccurate, as the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong did not win the Vietnam War through the use of such weapons.
  • Vietnam appears to be deserted country in this film. As Willard travels up the Nung river, the only signs of human life are two US army bases. In reality, Vietnam is a highly overpopulated nation, with rivers and roads surrounded by the population. There are also barely any signs of human life such as Vietnamese banners or signs, which were and still are highly common throughout Vietnam.

 

OPVL

Apocalypse Now. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. Paramount Pictures, 1979. DVD.

Origin- The film was produced and directed  by Francis Ford Coppola from the U.S. The film adapted the novel Heart of Darkness.

Purpose- Apocalypse Now was an epic war movie, and therefore its main purpose was to be a box-office hit and make a profit. This is reflected in its large production budget of $31.5 million. Additionally, Coppola may have made the film to become more recognised in the movie industry for having a unique take on a war movie.

Value- The value of Apocalypse Now is that it provides audiences with an entertaining way to learn more about the Vietnam War and the experiences of American soldiers.

Limitation- The film is not particularly useful to historians aiming to study the Vietnam War. The film features numerous historical inaccuracies, and is a fictional film rather than a documentary. Whilst it does provide a new take on the stark, depressing truth of war, the film only portrays the Vietnam War and America’s involvement in an especially negative light. The films main purpose of financial success may have led to the sensationalization/exaggeration of certain aspects of the war in the film.

 

Communications (Multilingualism)- Guess Where I’m From

Guessing my nationality, is something which I’m pretty sure no one has ever done correctly. Being one of the most third-culture kids people have ever met, I have grown quite used to it. To explain my background and the languages I speak is definitely more complicated than one would assume. Being born in Japan and having learnt the language since a very young age, I am now happy to say that I can consider myself a fluent every-day speaker. I am doing very well in my Japanese B SL class, and love the convenience of being able to speak the language of the country I live in. However, when most people see me they guess half Japanese. This makes sense since the majority of “halfies” (a term used to describe someone who is half Asian and half Caucasian) in Japan are American and Japanese. But my mother is actually from Hong Kong. This gets even more confusing when people assume I can speak Cantonese or Mandarin. However due to my upbringing in Japan, my Japanese happens to be a significantly higher level than either of these languages.

When I lived in Australia for three years during high school, my Japanese was appreciated even more. The language level in Australian high schools is significantly lower than in Japanese International Schools, and all my peers regarded me as some sort of linguistic genius in French and Japanese. I took French in ISSH (Japan school) for three years, however the course was so intense that when I went to my school in Sydney I was way above everyones level. My ability to speak every day french and use past and future tense was apparently way ahead of their curriculum, which was still focused on the basics like colours and numbers.

I am very lucky to have been brought up in such a multi-lingual environment. Hearing Japanese, Mandarin, French, English around me from a young age have made my ability to pick up foreign languages much better. I believe that going to an international school opens you up to more languages, as with such a multi-cultural community and environment you learn to accept others cultures and pick up a few phrases from them.

Appreciating different cultures and languages has made me able to take the best parts of each and combine them into myself. The politeness of the Japanese society and language is entrenched in my personality just as the spirit and humour of Australians is. Being able to communicate and pick up foreign languages is a valuable skill for the future, and will allow me to be comfortable no matter what country I go to. 

Community Engagement- ARC

Community Engagement

From last year, I joined the Animal Relief Club at YIS. This club meets once every friday lunchtime. Here we come up with fundraising ideas for local animal shelters, and discuss visits to the shelters to practically assist. I joined this group because my friends were the leaders and gave me good information about it, and because I like animals and thought that it would be a good community service for me to both help others and enjoy myself. I used to have a dog, so this club means a lot to me. Throughout the year, the club visits the shelter several times to help walk dogs. The group last year we helped was SALA, and this year we are helping the shelter Lifeboat.

Being in an animal shelter was an unfamiliar environment. I had never gone to one before this club, and being there i was shocked. Although the conditions of the place were fine, it was still sad to see all the animals kept in cages, and surprising to see how many there were. Although I first felt uncomfortable because of a combination of language barriers, not being familiar with the local area, and lack of experience I feel much more confident now in my ability to help and communicate with the shelter.

When not at the shelter, ARC has helped me develop my fundraising skills. In small subgroups I had to work with other members to develop ideas to help the group. There were many sub committee, and I am on the fundraising ideas group. I believe this is one of the most important groups, as we must raise awareness and funds for ARC. I have developed my skills at communicating with the leaders and younger members, and feel that a common interest in animal welfare has made it easy to become friends with other members. Although I did not know everyone in the group before, the fact that everyone has a shared passion for helping animals makes it easy to bond with others. For fundraising, I also learnt business skills. It was important to come up with ideas that would generate a profit. For example, I assisted in coming up with the idea of a “guess the no. of jelly beans in the jar” game for YIS’s 2015 Food Fair. This is an important fundraising event for the group, and with the new restraint of not being able to sell food, I feel very proud of this creative idea.

I have shown commitment by attending all meetings and regularly volunteering for extra jobs, such as creating the poster with photos for the ARC booth at the 2015 Service Fair. Although the shelter was far, I still committed my time and effort to go and help with transporting donation items and walking the dogs.

This group has made me much more aware about the ethics behind animal shelters. Although the conditions were liveable, they were still very low compared to household pets. The cages were small, and sanitation was not a priority. The noise and smells inside the shelter were quite overwhelming. This experience has made me question how strongly laws for animal rights are implemented, and whether governments are doing anything to fix this problem.

I look forward to continue being a member of this group in my senior year. I hope to visit the Lifeboat shelter soon to assist in the dog walking, and to see how successful our fundraising at Food Fair is.

Der Spiegel Article

As we are currently studying WW2 with a  focus on Hitler and Nazi Germany, I read an article for class from the popular German magazine Der Spiegel.

See- This website showed the difficulties Germany faced during WW2, specifically in Cologne towards the end of the war.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 1.51.42 PMAs  seen in this image, the website showed the event in a chronological order, starting with the Allies closing in on Germany by taking the surrounding countries/areas.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 1.51.54 PMI then learnt about the actual attack on Cologne, with the article focusing on the damage done to the city (e.g. “ruins of the city’s landmark Hohenzolem Bridge”).

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 1.52.00 PM

The article then describes the casualties caused by the allied attack, as “20,000 residents died in the air strikes” and “230,000 left homeless”.

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 1.52.21 PM

The article then showed aftermath of Cologne, which was the significant displacement of Germans who lived there.

Think- I think it was really interesting reading an article about an attack on Germany from a German point of view. From previous readings, allied victories are often written about from allied nationalities. Therefore, victories against Germany are often displayed in a more positive light, and the details of the damage done to the German people/country is not examined in detail. However , this article does the opposite and showed how the people of Germany were heavily affected, and how the city of Cologne was destroyed.

Wonder- I wonder how this magazine would describe conflicts between German and Allied troops, and whether they would focus more on the loss of German lives than Allied lives. I also wonder whether this article would count allied victories as “good” or “bad” or remain neutral.

 

Link to article: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/world-war-ii-in-cologne-delusion-a-1032115.html

Historical Review of The Book Thief

Click on the link below to hear my review of how well The Book Thief represents the time period/place it was set in. See below for more info/links.

For a summary: The Book Thief IMDB Page

Extra: Timeline of events that occur during the film

Evidence for my views: 

Hitler’s Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS –> shows Hitler Youth was mandatory

OPVL: Review of The Book Thief by Dr. Paul Moore

Origin: This website features a review in the form of an interview, by Dr. Paul Moore from the University of Leicester. He is a British lecturer in modern european history, focusing on Germany in the Nazi period.

Purpose: The purpose of the the interview is for Dr. Paul Moore to review the film The Book Thief, and give his opinion on both how entertaining the film is as well as how historically accurate it is. The review is made to provide people interested in history (as it was published on the website History extra) with not only a historians point of view on the film, but also perhaps recommend/not recommend them to watch the movie.

Value: This review would be valuable to someone who was interested in the historical details of WW2, and who wanted to know if The Book Thief would be suitable for them. It would also be valuable to someone who was unsure as to whether to watch the film or not, as Dr. Paul Moore gives his opinion on how entertaining it is. As Dr. Paul Moore is a official historian with both a BA and PHD, and lectures at a well-known university, his viewpoint on what is historically accurate can be considered well informed.

Limitations: There are some limitations in this review. For example, Dr. Paul Moore is British and in WW2, Germany was an enemy to his nation. Therefore his opinion that Nazism/key events of the war were not portrayed detailed enough may be influenced by his nationality, as he would then want the negative influence of the Nazis on Germany to be focused on more. Additionally, Dr. Paul Moore is not a professional film critic, and therefore his opinion on the entertainment of the film is solely a personal judgement.

Citations:

“Historian at the Movies: The Book Thief.” History Extra. Immediate Media, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

Rempel, Gerhard. Hitler’s Children: The Hitler Youth and the SS. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 1989. Print.

Fit For Life: Habits of Mind

Over the course of year 11, I felt that the increasing workload affected my stress levels as well as my motivation. Feeling constantly tired and stressed about upcoming assignments/work I decided that I had to find different outlets for my stress so that I would have a more calm and clear mind and would be able to focus better on school/other activities.

One method of de-streesting my mind, is yoga. At first I started off with a few months of practising yoga with my home at home, using a DVD. I found that the slow stretching helped to release tension in my body, and gave me a sense of calm after each session. I began taking regular classes (about once a week) at a studio near my house. I have learnt a lot about yoga, and whilst I am still at an easy level I find that this form of physical activity helps to clear my mind and make me make time for myself out of a busy day.

I have always been a member of my gym, however the way I used to gym has changed as well as the purpose. I used to go occasionally simply for physical benefits (keeping up my fitness for different sports), however I found that going to the gym and doing vigorous physical activity such as running on the treadmill or weight training helped distract me. A method I have found very useful is after a stressful day, or when I am studying for a long period of time, going to the gym not only lets me have an anger outlet that is productive (especially when things are frustrating) but also distracts my mind. It is impotrant to take regular breaks from studying, and by going to the gym I also get in some physical activity which will help me study later on. A theory behind this is that the increased blood flow to the brain after exercise helps concentration.

I have found two ways of calming my mind, which is especially important during sleep. Nights before a big test, I often seem to be unable to sleep until  very late as my brain is still active/focused on school. One interesting application that helps with this was the music app called 8-trax. This app is used to find different playlists. I often search the  hashtag “#clam” or “#study” led me to music that was soothing and relaxing. You can then set a sleep timer, so your phone will automatically stop playing the music after a certain time. Although music can be distracting, I have realised that this can be a good thing when you want to stop thinking about school work at night.

One thing I attempted during the year was meditation. I do not do this activity too often (probably around twice a month). However so far, I have felt its positive effects only twice. I have continued, however, as I believe that the more times I attempt to do this the better I will become. The biggest problem I have is completely clearing my mind, and not becoming distracted. Over summer though, I have had much more time to meditate. I have found that meditating in the morning seems to be the most effective for me, as it helps set up my day in a relaxing manner, and gives me a positive outlook for the rest of the day.

Out of all my ways of keeping my mind “healthy”, I believe meditation is the most difficult. However after reading many comments by other people who meditate with positive effects, I am determined to continue with this habit throughout year 12. I will also continue with my other methods of coping with stress, although I believe that if my schedule became too busy with exams I would chose the gym over yoga lessons, simply because it fits a greater amount of physical benefit within a short time than yoga. Ultimately, I plan to continue will all the activities.

Adventure/Global Perspectives- Trip to Cambodia

In February, I went with a group of YIS students on the Cambodia Trip. I had never gone to Cambodia before, and I felt that during this trip I learnt a lot about not only the history of the country, but also about the people and culture. The first few days were sightseeing such as going to the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, and orientating ourselves with our new environment. The project at the school was the most rewarding part of the trip.

There were a few challenges to this trip. First was the risk of getting ill. Although this didn’t seem that important before, many of us did get sick. I had food poisoning and combined with the humidity/heat and not having the same access to health facilities as I was used to made it more challenging. There were also risks about safety, as the country’s government is known for being very corrupt. However we were very lucky that our teachers briefed us about health/hygiene and safety before the trip, so we all felt comfortable.

The next two days however, I felt very accomplished at the end when we left the school and was able to see the progress we had done. It was also challenging when I wasn’t physically strong enough to shovel the dirt at the speed needed to be efficient, so I tried my best to contribute to the group by offering to switch when others were tired, or doing other jobs such as returning empty buckets.

Seeing the children at the school made me realise that one of the biggest problems Cambodia has is supply of clean water, which affects all aspects of a child life including their attendance at school. It also made me see that the Pol Pot regime affected pretty much every person in Cambodia, and had such a strong negative impact on the country’s development. The young children were very friendly and eager to play, interested by our language and different physical appearance. Even though there was a language barrier, we were still able to bond with them and saying good bye was very hard.

The trip has made me realise that the world is very diverse, and other countries cultures and living standards can be very different to what we are used to. I am now more aware of the connections between different nations, such as the HOPE group we worked with which has an office in Tokyo. I found this very interesting, as even though Cambodia is a developing nation they’re charity groups are still able to communicate with countries across the world. I also learnt more about global aid, and how vital it is to developing nations.

Another thing I got out of this trip was bonding with others in our year group. Going on this trip I was nervous as none of my extremely close friends were going. However I learnt a lot about each person, and feel that I built many friendships that I otherwise would not have. Working with everyone in our group made me appreciate the commitment everyone had, as no one had a negative attitude or didn’t do their share of the work. I am very happy I decided to go on this trip, and would recommend it to anyone considering going.

The skills I have gained is communication, as I am now able to connect and make friends easier with people I am not close with. I have also gained travelling skills, and feel more confident in my ability to travel to culturally different nations and be able to take care of myself.

 

 

At the school in Cambodia
At the school in Cambodia

Sources of Knowledge

 In a post on your blog choose the 3 sources of knowledge you would consider most reliable and identify how they contribute to the formation of shared knowledge. (Max 350 words) Remember to use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help you demonstrate higher levels of analysis and insight.

The three sources of knowledge I would consider the most reliable are: Sense perception, reason, and memory.

Sense Perception: This is only information we receive from our senses, and therefore things we experience first hand: smells, sights, things we hear etc. I believe this to be one of the more reliable forms of receiving information, as being your own source means that none of the information has been manipulated by others before you receive it. This is one of the main ways for people to obtain knowledge, and therefore is a key feature in shared knowledge. As we have different experiences/living situations and our opinions/history shape our sense perception, we are able to use our first hand experiences to express to others what we have seen/heard etc. However as any form of WOK, sense perception can be unreliable as what we see is not necessarily true (e.g. optical illusions), and therefore as with any source of knowledge, we must approach our conclusions from it with caution.

Reason: Reason, on the other hand, is when we use our mind to figure things out. However to have reason we must use previous experiences or other knowledge that we have already obtained. Reason is used in shared knowledge, as it is essential for the process of deductive and inductive reasoning. When people are making a conclusion about something, they reason their conclusion with shared knowledge that they already have.

Memory: Memory is a vital part of processing information, as we often used past experiences/knowledge we have already obtained to interpret information we receive. In this way we should be cautious that with memory can come bias, and the best way to minimise this is to be aware of it. Shared knowledge comes based off memory- e.g. someone makes a discovery in an experiment and shares the result with the world, the memory of their discovery is then used as a basis for other reasoning.

Public Speaking- Student Inspire Reflection

In November 2014, I participated in a public speaking event at my school called “Student Inspire”. This event was designed to allow those participating in the GCD to meet their Communications requirements, as well as to offer an opportunity for students to practice their public speaking skills. I decided to join this event as not only did I need to fulfill my GCD requirement, but also because I wanted to practice my speaking skills in front of an audience (which would be valuable for me in the future- e.g. MUN). I hoped that in doing so I would gain confidence in speaking up, as well as improve my abilities to write an engaging speech. The audience/speakers were mostly year 11’s, however there were a few year 10’s and 12’s as well.

I have never volunteered to be part of a public speaking event. In fact in year 9, not too long ago, I was offered an opportunity to be in a public speaking contest and I turned it down, as I was not sure of my abilities. Participating in this event was very stressful for me, and the days leading up to the event had me extremely worried. I only finished my speech on the day of the event, and I even considered pulling out last minute, as I was so nervous. However thanks to encouragement from both my family and friends I went through with it.

The speech went much better than expected. Being given the freedom to choose any topic made a great difference, as I talked about a topic that I was passionate about (Generalised Testing). Being passionate meant I truly believed in what I was saying, and therefore made an extra effort to engage with the audience. This topic also suited the audience, who all understood where I was coming from in regards to the difficulties teenagers face with tests like the SAT.

After the speech friends and other students I weren’t even closed to congratulated me, and my confidence in public speaking has grown significantly since. Knowing that people listened to what I was saying and enjoyed my speech surprised me, and now I know that I can speak in front of an audience and that all I have to do is prepare beforehand, and believe in myself. This has allowed me to become more engaged in Model United Nations, where I am now not afraid to speak up.

If I were to repeat this activity I would focus more on having fun rather than being nervous. I believe that once I get past the point of stage fright I will be able to truly enjoy public speaking. Next, my goal is to speak in front of a larger audience, hopefully for a cause.