One of the finest examples of a truly disturbing narration, the voice of the narrator in “Apocalypse Now“ rarely directly addresses the action – in Martin Sheen’s world weary voice, he comments on what’s happening around him. More than most voice-overs here, this one is an inner monologue, giving an almost film noir quality to Michael Herrs’ words and Vitorio Storaro’s incredible visuals.
It knows when to retreat, and when to take over the story-telling. Francis Ford Coppola might have been almost insane when he made this film, but maybe that’s what it takes (certainly nothing he did later on in his career showed the genius he displays here). Ultimately, however, it comes down to Martin Sheen’s acting – as both the narrator and the lead actor, he is his own counterpoint most of the time, and he really makes it work.
Alas, YouTube won’t allow me to embed it, but here’s a great example of it – the first 8 minutes of the film.