Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now lacks the impact of its inspiration, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. While the basic elements of imperialism and human nature remain intact, the characters of the film bare little resemblance to their literary counterparts. The film serves as a re-interpretation of Conrad’s novella, updated from 19th-century British imperialism in the Congo to a critique of 20th-century U.S. imperialism in Southeast Asia. Coppola’s changes in setting and plot structure, however, force the film to sacrifice the character development so crucial in the literary work. This detracts from the overall effectiveness of the film.
The most important difference between novella and film is the …show more content…
military. This type of moral direction deprives the viewer of the forced introspection created by the novella.
The film also depicts the character of Kurtz in a very different light. Conrad builds up the appearance of Kurtz so much that his first scene is intentionally anti-climactic. He is discovered to be an ailing, elderly gentlemen, malnourished and on the verge of death. Marlow himself is simultaneously impressed with and disappointed by Kurtz. He enjoys listening to the old man’s philosophies, but he is let down by Kurtz’s lack of realistic thinking. He has clearly lost his mind, and with it, some of his credibility and mysticism.
The character of Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, however, is never de-humanized as it is in Heart of Darkness. Coppola’s casting of Marlon Brando as the eccentric army major forced Kurtz’s character to take on the burden of Brando’s infamous weight problems. As a result, Kurtz was transformed from an emaciated, sickly old man to a powerful, overweight, middle-aged soldier. This transformation has been noted by many critics, most significantly Roger Ebert, who stated in a review of the recently re-released Apocalypse Now, “In the film, Kurtz is portrayed by Marlon Brando, the father of American method actors, who lends weight (both physically and dramatically) to the figure of the megalomaniacal Kurtz. Brando's massive girth is all the more ironic for those familiar
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Throughout the first two parts of Joseph Conrad's book, Heart of Darkness, the character Kurtz is built up to be this amazing and remarkable man. In the third book, however, we learn the truth about who Kurtz really is. Kurtz cries out in a whisper, "The horror! The horror!"(p. 86), and in only two words he manages to sum up the realization of all the horrors of his life during his time in the Congo.
Although Kurtz was alone, that loneliness helped him in the end. Through isolation, Kurtz was able to see who he really was. The main place where Kurtz finds himself is on his deathbed. Marlow says, ‘"But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude-and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating’"(Conrad 57). Marlow is saying that since Kurtz has been in the wilderness,
Prior to the meeting with Kurtz, both Marlow and Willard encounter a peculiar man, in Heart of Darkness, it is the Harlequin, in Apocalypse Now, the Photojournalist - who is essentially based on the Harlequin. Both characters serve to provide final insight regarding the current disposition of Kurtz, before the inevitable meeting. Like the Harlequin, the Photojournalist views Kurtz as “a great man” and views himself as “a little man.” Thus both characters share feelings of self-doubt, a sort of insecurity, in which they feel themselves to be of less significance than “Mr.” Kurtz, despite their own achievements - as venturing this deep into the jungle, is by no means an easy task. While he does not hesitate to use violence, Kurtz is described more prominently a good speaker, in essence, “a poet warrior in the classical sense”, whose intriguing philosophical insights have enlightened both characters, as the Photojournalist concludes: “The man’s enlarged my mind.” It is the willingness of both the Harlequin and the Photojournalist to cave in to Kurtz’s words, that perhaps marks their own descents into darkness, as despite witnessing the atrocities committed by Kurtz, they fail to refute their view on Kurtz, instead choosing to defend him, as the Harlequin states: “you can’t judge Mr. Kurtz as you would an ordinary man.” The most profound difference between the two is their influence (or lack thereof) on the protagonist. While the Harlequin is convinced by Marlow to abandon Kurtz, the Photojournalist stays by Kurtz’s side with absolute conviction, and it is his profound rant that perhaps forces Willard to question everything his prejudices on Kurtz. The Photojournalist attempts to enlighten Willard, he questions Willard, asking: “why would… you want to kill Kurtz?... Because
Kurtz’s lack of restraint and hunger for ivory consumes not only his soul but drains all of his physical existence. Upon seeing him, Marlow states, “I could see the cage of his ribs all astir, the bones of his arm waving (126)”. Conrad focuses on the physical features of Kurtz to display the madness that has consumed him. However, though Kurtz’s body is deteriorating, Kurtz’s mind continues to thrive. Conrad shows this in Marlow’s shock of witnessing a flame of passion that remains in Kurtz’s eyes as he converses without signs of exhaustion (126). Conrad continues to describe Kurtz as a shadow composed of tranquility and satisfaction. Conrad’s incorporation of this detail signifies the evil and greed that consumes Kurtz and is reflected through his physique. However, the power of Kurtz’s presence is personified through the action of his words. As the strength in his voice captures Marlow’s attention, it merely reflects his influence upon his followers. The power reflected through his voice displayed his confidence as well as his position as a leader for the natives. Hi demeanor displays an air of arrogance that makes others feel less equal to him. Those who follow him fear him, but also continue to respect him.
In Heart of Darkness, Kurtz is depicted as an upstanding European who has been transformed by his time in the jungle- being away from the society he was used to that could have prevented him from becoming such a tyrant. I have experienced being in a situation where I was very different from the people around me. It forced me to figure out their interests so I was able to join in on their conversations. By the end of the day, I no longer felt alone. So that experience taught me that I am going to come across diversity in life, but I need to be open and accepting of it. If I had chosen to just be shy, I wouldn’t have learned this lesson. I didn’t find myself being pulled toward base, cruel instincts as Kurtz, but I think that’s because Kurtz had no one to control him. If a person gains that much power, it may lead to the transformation that Kurtz experienced. –pg. 144 “But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad.”
When Joseph Conrad sat down to write Heart of Darkness over a century ago he decided to set his tale amidst his own country's involvement in the African Congo. Deep in the African jungle his character would make his journey to find the Captain gone astray. Over eighty years later Francis Ford Coppola's Willard would take his journey not in Afica but in the jungles of South Asia. Coppola's Film, Apocalypse Now uses the backdrop of the American Vietnam War yet the similarities between the Conrad's novel and Coppola's film remains constant and plenty.
interpretation of the darkness in his journey with these words, "True, by this time it was not a blank space any more...a place of darkness. But there was in it one river especially, a mighty big river... resembling an immense snake uncoiled, with its head in the sea, its body at rest curving afar over a vast country, and its tail lost in the depths of the land...the snake had charmed me." (p. 11) However, in Heart of Darkness, the definitions of lightness and darkness has been reversed. Darkness can be interpreted to stand for the purity and innocence of the natives lifestyle, while lightness can be seen as the corruption, greed, and exploitative ways of the white men. The natives lived by the code of nature in a sort of "darkness," in that they had not been exposed to the corruption of the
We are always taught to appreciate the little things in life; the things that don’t seem to have much of significance at first but end up meaning the world to us. These small things have a value so great but so hidden that they are usually taken a granted for. In The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, there are a few characters that aren’t present in the book for a large amount of time but have a great affect on the story. Kurtz is one of these characters. Kurtz is introduced towards the end of the story but he has an affect on the action, the theme and the other characters development even when he isn’t present.
Captain Benjamin Willard of Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness 's Marlow are very much alike. Both are sent on a mission to find Kurtz, a well respected man. In the novella, Kurtz is an exceptional ivory trader and not only a musician, but a
Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is the story of Captain Willard's journey up the Nung River in Cambodia to kill a general, Kurtz, who has lost control of himself. It is set in the Vietnam War and is a very gritty and affecting film. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it was sort of based on Joseph Conrad's famous novella, Heart of Darkness. Conrad's book, the tale of the sailor Marlowe's African adventure, is a study on the evils of colonialism. The two stories at first glance do not seem very similar, but after examining both, it is quite shocking the degree of similarity between the two. Many people have been able to draw comparisons to Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola's film
Various parallels can be drawn when comparing and contrasting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Frank Coppola's "Apocalypse Now", while taking into consideration Heart of Darkness is a novella and "Apocalypse Now" is a film. These differences and similarities can be seen in themes, characters, events and other small snippets of information including anything from quoted lines to strange actions of the main characters. Both pieces follow the same story line but they are presented in different contexts, allowing for many differences as well as the ability to see how Conrad is able to write a piece of literature that can be transposed to many different settings regardless the time period and still convey the same message of colonialism.
The idea of company man turned savage, of a brilliant and successful team-player, being groomed by "the Company" for greater things, suddenly gone native, is perfectly realized in both novella and film. In the film, Kurtz is portrayed by Marlon Brando, the father of American method actors, who lends weight (both physically and dramatically) to the figure of the megalomaniacal Kurtz. Brando's massive girth is all the more ironic for those familiar with Heart of Darkness who recall Conrad's description: "I could see the cage of his ribs all astir, the bones of his arms waving. It was as though an animated image of death carved out of old ivory had been shaking its hand with menaces at a motionless crowd of men..." (Conrad, p.135). One could speculate that Coppola's Kurtz is a graphic analogy of the bloated American war machine dominating and perverting the innocent montegnards of Cambodia; however, after viewing Eleanor Coppola's documentary, one finds that the casting was more based on a combination of Coppola's wanting to work with Brando (remember "The Godfather") and Brando's own weight problem. (It should also be noted that the cult-like following of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness is brilliantly and subtly updated by Coppola in a foreshadowing scene in which missives to Willard from headquarters are intercut with scenes of newspaper clippings about Charles Manson.)
Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad and “Apocalypse Now”, a movie directed by Francis Coppola represent two outstanding examples that compare relevant ideas regarding racism, colonialism, and prejudices. The two combine film along with descriptive language to portray their mastery during different eras. For Heart of Darkness, Conrad uses his writing techniques to illustrate Marlow in the Congo, while in “Apocalypse Now”, Coppola uses film editing and close ups on important scenes with unique sounds to identify Willards’ quest for Kurtz. Both portray the idea of colonization in foreign lands that otherwise may have been uninhabited by their own people if left alone.
Even from the beginning, Kurtz was made out to be an icon, an idol. To Marlow, he was the only thing that made sense in the company, on a journey, in a wilderness full of confusion. The
There are essentially very few differences between Marlow and Kurtz. A main and apparent difference between the two men is what they love. It is evident to all that Kurtz feels a deep affection towards ivory. An affection even more so than for his fiancée. Marlow describes is as, “The wilderness…had caressed him…it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flush, and sealed his soul to its own..” (Conrad 48). Marlow, on the other hand has an undying love of adventure and exploration. There is more than just that way do these two men differ from each other. At some point along his journey, Marlow finds himself idolizing and obsessing over Kurtz, just as the natives do. What is it about Kurtz that makes him so enchanting?