Comparing Marlow of Heart of Darkness and Willard of Apocalypse Now

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Comparing Marlow of Heart of Darkness and Willard of Apocalypse Now

Whenever books are adapted for film, changes inevitably have to be made. The medium of film offers several advantages and disadvantages over the book: it is not as adept at exploring the inner workings of people - it cannot explore their minds so easily; however, the added visual and audio capabilities of film open whole new areas of the imagination which, in the hands of a competent writer-director, can more than compensate.

Heart of Darkness relies heavily on lengthy philosophical and expository passages, as well as some very unusual and complex imagery; “not the easiest material to rewrite as a screenplay” (Canby, 18). However, rewrite it Francis Ford
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Therefore, Coppola elected to change the character, the only similarity between the two being that they are both normal people amongst lunatics, and are both outsiders - Marlow never fits in with the corrupt and immoral Company, and Willard does not play by the usual army rules (both characters are uncannily similar to Kurtz in that respect).

The similarities end there. Willard lacks the depth of thought that Marlow has; Willard does not digress into lengthy ethical debates, or philosophize. Also, he does not use imagery of any sort - the strong, red-eyed devils and the flabby, weak-eyed devils from the book are not mentioned (if Willard were Marlow, he would have admonished the army leaders in Saigon for being flabby devils, for example), nor does he have any of the fascination with shoes and other arbitrary objects and ideas that Marlow seems to. Willard also has no qualms whatsoever about killing, whether it be innocents (the girl on the trading boat) or Kurtz himself; in the book, Marlow had an abhorrence towards killing. These are mostly unavoidable differences, due to the different settings. Marlow is an imaginative pilot who wishes to explore the Congo, having had a fascination with the "many blank spaces on the earth• from childhood; Willard is a soldier through and through and does not have time to moralize. Were these changes not present, then Apocalypse Now would have been horribly off-balanced,