Strangers in Strange Lands: Comparing and Contrasting ‘Apocalypse Now’ and ‘Silence’

Two very different movies with more in common than you might think.
Martin Scorsese's Silence
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on May 31st, 2017

You might not think it upon first consideration, but there are a lot of similarities between Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam-War-thriller Apocalypse Now and Martin Scorsese’s 2016 film Silence about Jesuit monks in 17th century Japan: both deal with young men from the West entering an Eastern country in search of a countryman once held in high esteem now suspected to be a traitor; furthermore, both deal with young men who find ideological conflict in their pursuits, an effect of the social environment in which they find themselves; and both deal with themes of amorality, dehumanization, violence, cultures in opposition, spiritual rebirth, and the annihilation of the soul.

But of course, being that they exist in drastically different contexts, for every similarity these films share there are complementary differences, and the whole lot goes under the microscope in the latest video essay from Jack’s Movie Reviews exploring the thematic links and interpretive contradictions of Apocalypse Now and Silence.

Given that Coppola and Scorsese are not only friends but products of the same filmmaking generation, one that came of age on the back end of the 60s and whose cinema was the first to combine the subversive with the mainstream, it isn’t surprising that the directors would work with the same ideas. What is surprising and furthermore insightful is just how they present said ideas, where they resonate with each other, and where they strike distinctive chords. This is another stellar analysis from JMR, and one for which you need to make time.

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