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Apocalypse Now vs Heart of Darkness Essay

Decent Essays
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
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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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