Sound plays a significant part in all movies and one of the most interesting of all the sound techniques would be the use of nondiegetic music. In the movie Apocalypse Now, there is a double disc soundtrack with thirty tracks on it. The one song on there that has the most meaning would The Doors song “The End”. This song not only set the mood for the scene waiting in Saigon and the move as a whole but is also used to foreshadow the death of Coronal Kurtis. Mr. Coppola, the director of the film, was a genius for picking this song to represent the movie.
It not only fits the movie with the sounds of helicopter but the words alone have significant meaning to the movie. Along with it serving as a premise for the movie, Mr. Coppola plays with the viewer’s perception of diegetic sounds and nondiegetic music. The scene as a whole is a montage of overlapping dissolve sequence. It is set in Saigon but is more of a delusional state of mind of Willard, the main character. We get a sense of the upcoming climatic part of the movie through the visions and music of the scene.
The opening scene starts out with a diegetic sound of a helicopter passing in front of a jungle. We get the sense that the helicopter sounds that we will be hearing are going to be diegetic until Mr. Coppola brings in The Doors song “The End”. Which brings the sounds of the helicopter into the music. He uses the helicopter as a set up for the music ensemble that is forth coming. As the electric guitar starts to play a psychedelic tune with the sounds of the synthesized helicopter, you feel like you’re in a somewhat delusional state of mind.
As if your mind is being carried away by the music to a dreamlike place. The dirt in the scene is doing some mysterious dance to the beat making the jungle in the background seem somewhat fuzzy and dreamlike. The first minute of the song is used to set the viewers for the montages sequence that is coming up next in the scene. Its purpose is to make us feel delusional and somewhat drugged. The guitar solo and synthesized helicopter sounds then leads us into the world and mind of the main character, captain Willard.
As the sequence moves along you hear the voice of Jim Morrison sing, ” This is the end Beautiful friend This is the end My only friend, the end,” to the flaming sights of war are seen at the edge of a jungle as napalm blows the jungle up to pieces. As the camera pans across the destruction left of the bomb, the song emphasizes the word the end. This music is used to bring a hallucinatory intensity to the movie. Without the song in the background all we would see is the destruction that the war had on the jungle.
With the music we get more of feeling of the destruction that it had mentally, not only physically on Willard mind. We get the sense that Willard knows something that we as viewers don’t and is trying to forewarn us that something is going to end. The first spoken words of the song add the needed intensity to the sequence and the whole movie. To let the viewers know that something is going to end. Whither it is the end of the war, or the end of a life. As we move into the montage sequence of shots, the music words are used to express what we are seeing on screen.
Mr. Coppola uses the rest of the sequence to foreshadow what is going to happen at the end of the movie. This is the main function of the song in the movie, which is to get the viewers mind thinking about the end of the movie. It starts out with an overlapping dissolve from the burning jungle into Willard’s burnt wet face. As the dissolve leads to Willard’s face we hear the song say, “I’ll never look into your eyesagain. ” This symbolizes death. We get the sense through the music that someone, either Willard or someone else in the move, is going to die.
The music is still playing as we get a delusional view of what Willard is thinking about. Then we get to another shot where we see a tribal statue next to Willard’s face with the jungle on fire in the background. The music then goes on into saying, “Desperately in needof somestranger’s handin adesperate land. ” This right here foreshadows Coronal Kurtz, the antagonist in the film, compound. Kurtz was thought to be insane and he needed a way out. The “the strangers handin a desperate land” is connecting Kurtz and Willard. That is why they show Willard’s face with the tribal statue and this part of the song.
To warn the viewers what is to come at the end of the movie, which is the end of Kurtz and his compound of people. In the next sequence the tone of the music turns into a fast paced drum solo, bringing the beat and intensity of the sequence up. The beat leads from a slow delusional pace, to a fast, somewhat overexerted pace. As if Willard’s thought are starting to become overwhelming. The camera then dissolves into Willard’s room and we come to see a mise-en-scence shot of cigarettes with lighter, glass with alcohol, and a bottle of Cordon Bleu.
As this shot is shown the song plays, ” lost in a romanwilderness of pain. ” We get the sense that Willard is on the path of self-destruction. The words of the song express this by using the Romans as an example. The Romans were said to be strong and one of the greatest empires. But due to their way of living they ended up becoming self destructed and later obsolete. The song gives us the sense that this is the path that Willard is on. With the music and the shot we see that he is in pain and is using the alcohol and cigarettes to ease the pain but at the same time he is just destroying himself.
As you listen to the rest of the song you are reinforced of this with the shot of Willard lying next to a gun and the song saying, “And all the children are insane. Along with the nondiegetic music playing there are two motifs within the song by The Doors. The first being that of Mr. Coppola playing with diegetic and nondiegetc music. As stated earlier, the first opening scenes start off with the digetic sound of a helicopter, which is then used to lead into the nondiegetic sound of a synthesized helicopter within the song.
As the scene moves along about two minutes into the scene we come to see the blades of a ceiling fan whirling around. This is where the helicopter sounds in the music change back into the diegetic sound of the whirling ceiling fan blades. The second motif is that the song reoccurs again about two hours into the movie. This is the scene where Willard is killing Kurtz and the caribou is being sacrificed. Which goes back to the function of the song in the beginning, which was to foreshadow the death or “The End” of Kurtz death.
Thus the nondiegetic use of music is indeed a very useful technique in the scene waiting in Saigon. The Doors song, “The End,” not only is used to foreshow what is going to happen at the end of the movie but is also used to set the mood of the movie. Along with setting the mood, Mr. Coppola plays with the use of diegetic music turning it into nondiegetic music. These are all key functions for using a song in a movie and Mr. Coppola is a genius for choosing “The End” to play a significant part in Apocalypse Now.