Heart Of Darkness And Apocalyp Essay, Research Paper
When Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness he could not have envisioned director Francis ford Coppola s version of his work. Coppola transformed a story of a man sent to Africa to find a missing trader to the story of a Vietnam soldier sent to kill a rogue marine. He did so without damaging the spirit of the work as one of the battle within, the battle between good and evil.
“Paths, paths everywhere; a stamped in network of paths spreading over empty land . . . (Conrad 39).” When Coppola decided to make a story telling the journey to the heart of darkness, he had many paths from which to choose how to tell the tale. In some choices he followed Conrad, and in others he forged his own path.
Coppola’s film, Apocalypse Now like Conrad’s novella, Heart of Darkness leaves the viewer in moral confusion; however, Coppola uses radically different interpretations of Conrad’s characters to produce the same confusion. Both the novella and the film leave the viewer or reader in a moral dilemma when he weighs the actions of Kurtz in respect to the ideals of the institution from which he comes. Despite this similarity, Coppola’s film offers a character who parallels Conrad’s Marlow, yet is drastically different in his relationship to the audience and his personality. Coppola again deviates from Conrad when portraying Kurtz as a mystical monster rather than the man beyond good and evil.
Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now leaves one in a moral dilemma when you consider the events surrounding Kurtz. The business institution in Heart of Darkness addresses the atrocities of Kurtz as unsound and bad for business. The company never speaks of the terrible actions as unmoral, and one begins to question why the decapitations and ruthless killings are not issues acknowledged by the authorities. According to Hagen, this is a ” . . . separation of reason from civilized morality . . . causing Marlow to prefer the nightmare of Kurtz. Better to commit atrocities than to count them wrong on grounds of efficiency (294).” It is more appealing to Marlow to ally himself with a dedicated sinner, and face the heart of darkness, than to judge Kurtz as wrong for business reasons. When Marlow becomes loyal to ” . . . the nightmare of his choice, (Conrad 164),” the reader follows him into an amoral center, where his reason is separated from his civilized morality, that which dictates the values of mother culture. The same moral issue confuses the reader, and is uncomfortable judging what the lesser of the two evils is, Kurtz or the business (Hagen 294). Coppola’s art leaves the viewer in the same moral dilemma as Conrad’s novella does.
In Apocalypse Now all the visual imagery outside Kurtz’s compound tells the viewer that this man is evil. The viewer feels morally repulsed at the lack of humanity in the slain heads, the murders, and the savage treatment of Willard. However because Willard is comfortable with Kurtz (Hagen 294), this draws the viewer into uncertainty. Colonel Kilgore’s actions, along with the vivid imagery, such as injured children, further confuses the moral judgment of the viewer. They plant disgust in the viewer toward the military institution. These feelings put the viewer of Apocalypse Now in the same moral dilemma as the reader of Heart of Darkness. He does not know where the moral ground lies: in the unfeeling military or the evil Kurtz.
The viewer’s identification with Coppola’s Willard as well as his personality is addressed differently than those of his counterpart, Conrad’s Marlow are. Heart of Darkness uses Marlow as a lens through which Conrad tells his story of the jungle (LaBrasca 290). Marlow is an eloquent and confident seaman in whom the reader trusts (289). His words are beautiful, simple and explain his journey. He says, “The best way I can explain it to you is by saying that, for a second or two, I felt as though, instead of going to the center of a continent, I were about to set off for the center of the earth (29). Because the reader trusts him, he adapts the viewpoint and psychology of Marlow and is thus Marlow is the filter of Conrad’s story.
Oppositely, Coppola did not want the viewpoint of Willard to interfere with the viewer’s own reaction to the film (Hearts of Darkness), so Coppola produces Willard as a weakened form of Marlow. Coppola introduces him to the viewer as a man who feels guilty about his past and doubts himself. Because there is not a trust developed between the viewer and the character, he does not have the influence on the viewer as a character as Marlow does. Coppola does this because he wanted an honest reaction to Vietnam from his viewers and it is more objective to have more than one vantage point (Hagen 198). Using camera angles and various points of view in his shots, Coppola gives the film a more neutral form.
Willard and Marlow must both face Kurtz; however, each encounters a different one. Marlow faces Conrad’s Kurtz, who is “a vestige of hope”(LaBrasca 290) from the petty institution he comes from. He is an honest character who the reader understands does bad things, and does it because of his dedication to his cause. Marlow states, “There was nothing either above or below him . . . he had kicked himself free of the earth,” to pursue his purpose: ivory. No rules stand between him and his goal because he is above them, and is beyond normal humanity (Dorall 305). Conrad’s Kurtz only sees his objective, and if he is accomplishing it, there is no need to consider right or wrong. He cannot be evil since he is above good and evil. Conrad’s Kurtz is pragmatic and effective. This is an Aristotelian good employee because he does well what he is supposed to do export ivory. Coppola’s Kurtz is an evil presence so huge. He is undefinable (Hagen 300). The viewer can see this in the first meeting of Willard and Kurtz when he does cleansing rituals. The lighting and long shots and slow editing of the meeting promote the domination of this man (Wilmington 285). This Kurtz is a mythical monster that must be overcome, rather than pragmatic (Hagen 293). He has no clearly defined intent as Conrad’s Kurtz; rather, he is exercising ultimate will for no clear purpose (LaBrasca 291). Because he has no defined reason for his ruthlessness, the viewer sees him as an evil man. Coppola does this to heighten his political message that the war in Vietnam had no purpose for America, because neither the military, nor this rebellious monster has a validity for being there (LaBrasca 289). While Coppola portrays Kurtz as a mythical monster, Conrad develops him as a man who is pragmatic and dedicated.
Coppola develops Willard as a man who is taking a journey to the heart of darkness, yet unlike Conrad and Marlow, he is kept from influencing the viewer. Both Conrad and Coppola confuse the moral issues in the minds of their audiences. While Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness have similar effect the audience’s thoughts, they each do it through different characters. Both artists, all the characters, and those who are familiar with the works get carried ” . . . away from the truth of things, within the toil of a mournful and senseless delusion (Conrad 30).”
Both story s transport us to a world most people dare not enter, a world where there may be no clear morality and nothing is as it seems. We meet the enigmatic Kurtz who s almost occult like charisma tempts us to join his world of power and fear. The last words Kurts utters are what I take with me of this world The horror The Horror .