Apocalypse Now, a 1979 American film, is an epic war movie set within the context of the Vietnam War. The most striking feature about the plot of Apocalypse Now is that, the narrative pattern involves an external medium, voice-overs by the narrator. A voice-over is a voice on an unseen commentator in a film, like the case of Willard in Apocalypse Now. The use of first person narrative voice is applied as used by the central character in the film. The main aim of incorporating both third person narrative voices in the form of voice-overs can be established from the Apocalypse Now movie experience. In this movie, the major part of the narration speaks to an audience outside the movie characters. In many sections in the movie, the first-person voice-over is used and mainly by, the central character, Captain Benjamin Willard. Each of the incidences of narrations used has importance, which will be established in this essay.
The major functions of such narrations include exposition, critical commentary, and character development. Film narratives are employed to describe various temporal experiences of the characters as well as revealing and reflecting the shapes and pattern of social histories. In the Apocalypse Now film, the central character in the movie is Captain Benjamin Willard, who is a United States Army officer from the special operations office. The narrative voice of Willard appears a few times, about twenty-eight times, in the film. The voice in this case is the first narrative voice and plays a significant role in establishing the meaning of this Vietnam War story. One major that the first person narrative voice plays in this film is to show the significance of their expedition to Colonel Kurtz and the prevailing events at the compound of this Colonel. Sometime the voice of Willard comes as a third person voice addressing the audience outside the world of the story.
One of the major functions of the voice of the central character, Willard, is the presentation of exposition information. Exposition in this case involves the systematic interpretation or explanation of whatever is likely to happen, what is happening, or whatever has happened in the movie context. An example of exposition this film as presented by the voice of Willard is during the opening sequence. The film starts in a context that tends to mislead viewers into thinking that they are watching an establishing shot of the country, Vietnam, form an offshore point. In the opening, helicopters are seen flying over an enflamed jungle shoreline. This case of ‘constructed’ war in Vietnam is hardly the real war in Vietnam but a Vietnam War in the mind of Willard. This clarity comes later as the movie sequence develops. This clarity of the case being in the mind of Willard is seen when he budges from his bed to the window. His first voice indicates that he is in Saigon against what he had been imagining or dreaming. His first voice confirms that the war has not only started by the journey to Vietnam is yet to begin. The rest of the first voice conveys that he was in a hotel room in Saigon preparing for another mission within the war.
The use of first person narrative voice provides a clue on the most intimate thoughts of characters and their feelings. Often, these feelings or thoughts can hardly be revealed through actions or dialogues. This kind of narration add dimension of consciousness that is subjective to character and whose presentation cannot be done otherwise. The first voice narration portrays the character of a subject within a film. The understanding of the actions and reactions of Willard is achieved best through his voice-overs. Given a situation whereby the voice-over is not incorporated, the reactions and actions of Willard would hardly be understood or noticed. Voice-overs function in the development of Willard character. Without his voice-overs, the film would make no sense. The mind of Willard makes him the central character since his narration portrays what he thinks, his personal critical evaluation of the entire journey, and the reason he changes after understanding Colonel Kurtz. Through the nation, it comes clearly that the film story is build around the development of Willard Character. Through the voice-overs of Willard, the audience is able to understand the cause of his changes in the course of his experience, the story of Colonel Kurtz, and implication of the film story.
The first voice narration by Willard makes him an observer and a commentator. His narration shows how he observes his experiences during his journey for the mission. He comments on the same experiences through his voice-overs, which would be difficult to understand without the narration. After hi encounter the Army General and begins his journey, Willard reflects the mission and the description provided to him about the insanity of Colonel Kurtz by the General. His narration in this case shows that Willard has an inner struggle in the mission as he reflects his experiences as a serious military assassin. He doubts killing his own offices, and he is uncertain about what he would do after meeting Kurtz. He also doubts the reason by the General for assassinating the Colonel. These first voice-overs make sense in questioning the moral validity in such judgment. The narration used shows that Willard is surrounded by all events in the film story. Kurtz happens to the antagonist in this film. Willard completes his mission after attacking and killing Kurtz with a machete. Willard is led to the boat by villagers and after the takeoff, the final words of Kurtz echo.