Method-Watching: Apocalypse Now


*Like method-acting, method-watching is the implementation of various external elements into the movie experience so as to heighten the film-goers' identification with the journey of the protagonist.

The re-advent of 3D in movie theaters has brought our attention to the limits of cinematic empathy. While 3D has a grandiose vision for embedding its audience into the drama that unfolds before their eyes, its execution has brought one distinct depressing reality to the forefront of our minds: movies are not real-life. I don't get to be Rocky Balboa or even Atticus Finch (though To Kill a Mocking Bird -- there's a flick I'd pay to see in 3D!!). No, I am only lowly Dante, watcher of films...

But the mind can be overtaken, I say, by the likes of ambience, atmosphere, emotion, and physicality. If I am able to nurture an environment in my place of moviedom that is somehow akin to that of my protagonist, my affection for the hero's plight just may cause me to see our great adventure as something endured jointly. Just the two of us.

I first discovered the powers of method-watchingness a few years back. I was house-sitting for my sister on a disturbingly hot Saturday afternoon in July when it happened; a spontaneous maiden voyage through a never-ending lazy-river of psychedelic torment. Apocalypse Now: It was obscene. It was mind-numbing. It was marvelous.

Temperature: 95F or higher (35C+).
Concessions: lots of water, oranges, tangerines, and lemons.
Company: Watch alone or with one other comrade.
Time of Day: Twilight. Start in the day, end at night.
Clothing: Minimal
Seating Arrangement: Try to find a leather couch that will make you stick to it when you sweat.


On the fateful day of my viewing of the celestial film, it just so happened that my sister's air conditioner broke. Due to this fact, sweating was inevitable... inevitable and gratuitous. I sweat all over like a 14-year old boy's armpit on a first date. It was gnarly. It was absurd. It was brilliant.

From minute one of the flick, Coppola sets us in the scorching world of Vietnam aka Hell. You are meant to sweat perpetually. This is hell.

I sat dripping in my own salty filth, as our protagonist navigates through the waters of Vietnam towards a destination of mental lunacy fatuity. You may be tempted to attempt the viewing with fellow watchers. I would caution against this. Under these circumstances, one of you will either begin to complain about the darned heat, or talk incessantly to find a conscious respite from the spiritual mind-games that your head will thrust upon you.

At its heart, Apocalypse Now is a descent into madness. It is a slow drip-trip, and one that proclaims at first as a whisper, but with ever loudening acclaim, "The world is senseless." Then the next moment offers visual proof. "See, look at how this cow falls to pieces. Do you not yet believe?... See, examine the beauty of the napalm flames swirling in the wind. Do you not yet believe?" You must become intoxicated with the universe this present apocalypse presents.

Apocalypse Now is a film to be endured; to be survived. It is shameful to watch such a film on the right side of your computer screen while you write emails on the left. May it never be!

Why do this? Why go through the torment of dripping for three hours with your eyes glued to a screen that exalts the strength of the will of destruction? Why? I tell you this: the lessons that such a film extols can only be understood, can only be breathed in, when it is felt. You must feel Apocalypse Now to gain an appropriate comprehension of its truth.

Feel it. Feel it down to the bone. And remember to duck when the arrows come stalking.