“In body genres…it seems to be the case that the success of these genres is often measured by the degree in which the audience sensations mimics what is seen onscreen” – Linda Williams.
Art inspires feeling. Film is art. Therefore, film inspires feeling. These feelings can extend to physical reactions, caused most frequently by what Williams refers to as “body genres”. These include porn, romance and what my focus will be this week, horror (which Williams harshly refers to as being “low”). But I will not be using a horror film as an example, at least not a traditional one. Apocalypse Now Redux is not so much a horror film, just a brutal attack on the senses.
An adaptation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the plot of AP sends Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) upriver to kill rouge Colonel Kurtz. The journey is more important than the destination in this film. The trip is a bad one. The journey is fraught with the dangers and delirium of the Vietnam war, the isolation of the wild, the savagery of men (including Willard). It’s a tough journey, and it breaks Willard, and it defeats me in turn.
What I mean is that I feel like it defeats me. This film exhausts me (in the best, most deliberate way). The further I travel with Willard, the worse we both feel. I mimic Willard and his companions as they go. The journey, the film is long. The film is slow at times and chaotic at others. It’s bizarre, violent and peaceful. There is no single moment that breaks the camel’s back, but the collection of harrowing events. If ever a film was designed to wear one down, it would be this one.
Watching AP, I feel tired. Like I’ve traveled a great distance, rather than simply witnessed a journey. In short, I am deliberately worn down by the film just like the characters in it, without having to really, physically experience any of the actual horrors they come across.
Which according to Williams, makes AP a successful body genre film, although I’d hardly classify it as being “low”. But to each their own.