"Heart of Darkness" and "Apocalypse Now"

Essay by onyi02College, UndergraduateA, March 2006

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The Heart of Darkness collides with Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola 1979 film Apocalypse Now is based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Conrad's Heart of Darkness focuses on the ivory trade taking place in Africa, while Apocalypse Now takes place during the Vietnam War. The main character in both the film and story is Kurtz. Kurtz refers to "the horror" in both the film and story, in both Kurtz sees a horror in the people around him, and eventually finds out that the horror is actually in him. In the novel the horror refers to Kurtz's tragedy of transforming into a greed-bound ruthless character whereas in the film the horror depicts the ruthless killing going on during the Vietnam War.

Heart of Darkness is narrated by Marlow; Marlow becomes extremely fascinated with Kurtz, and begins to try and locate Kurtz. Captain Willard is the narrator in Apocalypse Now, who is given a mission to locate and kill Colonel Kurtz, who is said to be in Cambodia killing the Vietcong.

Willard is told that Kurtz has gone insane and is no longer in the command of the military. Kurtz's operations are not to the liking of the military, thus they give Willard orders to assassinate him. Willard journeys up the Nung River to find Kurtz, and eventually finds and kills him. At his dying moment, Kurtz utters "The Horror! The Horror!"(394)

Kurtz's authority in both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now eventually causes him to become ruthless. Many tribes of natives adore Kurtz and obey his every command. Kurtz appears to have become a god of the people. As Marlow approaches Kurtz's place of refuge, described as the shack of the "universal genius" (359) by the natives. Dead bodies litter the area leaving the foul stench of death...