Apocalypse Now has such a prolonged climax that it becomes uncomfortable viewing. However, because of that discomfort, it develops a haunting profundity.
By that point in the film we know, as an audience, that we have been taken on a journey into the heart of darkness; to the very edge of reason. But yet there is still light. We see honour and loyalty, thoughtfulness and care, hatred and anger, psychosis and madness.
Logic and chaos.
All – with grotesque beauty – summed up by Kurtz’s darkened face, delineated only by a stark but seemingly rigid light. His gaze, focused on something only he can see, speaks of a man who has seen and done too many things. A man who has witnessed too much horror. A man for whom death almost comes as a release from the terrible perpetrations of humanity. At the end, he looks into the dark and sees his soul.
And given the context of both the film and Marlon Brando’s life, you can understand why.
What I can’t understand is why, when I checked on the boy the other night, he was sat bolt upright in his cot silently staring into the darkness of his room.
The monitor hadn’t made its usual, skull crushingly loud, bleeps to let us know that he was awake. Nor was there any sign that he was distressed.
As I walked in he turned to look at me, I could see a sad smile in the half-light which was filtering into the room from the street light outside.
He turned around and pulled himself up on the bars of his cot and in doing so, seemed to shed whatever melancholy had gripped him. It took me a good twenty minutes to get his chattering, gurgling, giggling self back to sleep.
But for that tiny moment, I saw the boy as thoughtful in a way he has never been before.
We know that at the moment he is starting to develop separation anxiety when we leave for work and there are times, like tonight, when he doesn’t want to be put down.
This is undoubtedly because he is starting to imagine us never coming back. He is, effectively, developing a mental construct of a possible future where he is left alone and that scares him.
Crushing paternal heartbreak aside, that is a powerful emotional burden on him one that, at times, I would gladly lift from his tiny shoulders.
But I have to remember that what my son is experiencing is the thing that most defines us as human. The ability to imagine and communicate that imagination is the predication for all culture, commerce and conflict.
Civilisation, if you will.
And whilst it may seem troubling at times and may appear to make him sad, I would far rather have him explore his imagination than not.
Even if that means staring into the gathering dark, looking at his soul.