Apocalypse Now Vs. Heart Of Darkness Essay, Research Paper
Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness
Placed in various time periods and settings, the novel Heart of Darkness, written by Joseph Conrad, and the movie Apocalypse Now, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, both create the same mysterious journey with various similarties and differences. The journey?s mystery lies in the scene; it is one down a river by boat, deep in the jungle. The jungle is populated mainly with wild animals and a few natives. The reason for the expedition is to search for a sick man named Kurtz, who is followed by the natives and his men from their previous missions. In Heart of Darkness, the journey to find Kurtz, who is an ivory trader who has gone too deep into the jungles of Africa in search of ivory, while in Apocalypse Now, Kurtz is a high-ranking officer in the military who has disobeyed orders and is now fighting the Vietnam war in Cambodia with his unit in his own fashion. The protagonists in both the novel and the movie go through various changes while on their mission to find Kurtz. Marlow, who is the rookie captain of a ship, slowly begins to envision Kurtz as an immortal figure. In the movie, Willard?s state of mind ranges from being a demented soldier to a crazed assassin. Although they are on the same mission, Marlow and Willard face terribly different factors that affect their journey. The difference of experiences, location, technology, communication, and mindset all affect each character in different ways. Although they may have faced varying environments, in the end the result was the same, Kurtz is discovered as a sick and possibly demented individual. Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are two strikingly similar yet subtly different stories that end in the same fashion.
Since Heart of Darkness was based in the 1890?s, Marlow experiences many things due to the lack of modern amenities and modern technologies. For example, a damaged steamer delays Marlow?s journey for almost three weeks. The delay is caused because Marlow and his crew could not get the rivets they needed to fix the steamer. A phone or radio could have helped Marlow fix his steamer earlier and gotten onto the water quicker. Three weeks might have been the difference between life and death for Mr. Kurtz. Another example of a lack of communication is the communication between stations:
Is he alone there? ?Yes,? answered the manager; ?he sent his
assistant down the river with a note to me in these terms:
?Clear this poor devil out of the country, and don?t bother
sending another more of that sort. I had rather be alone than
have the kind of men you can dispose of with me.? It was more than a year ago. (Conrad 100)
If the communication between stations would have been better, Marlow may have known the conditions the station was in, and the area around it. Information about Kurtz?s authority over the natives also could have helped save the life of a member of Marlow?s crew. Communication with Kurtz?s station would have benefited Marlow and his mission, by saving precious time and lives. Another modern amenity Marlow could have used were detailed maps and reconnaissance. These tools would have allowed Marlow access to solving geographic issues preventing him from reaching Kurtz?s station, such as a sandbank and a grassy islet. The sandbank and the grassy islet were what caused Marlow and his crew to be sitting ducks for the natives to shoot at. The necessary modern amenities may have made Marlow?s journey a shorter and safer one.
During the times in which Apocalypse Now is based, many aspects of daily life evolved. These changes have profoundly affected civilized life, while those still out in the jungle may not have felt any of these effects at all. Willard dealt with different issues than Marlow because technology solved the many problems that Marlow faced. Willard did not have to deal with a lack of communication or reconnaissance, all of this was provided by radio, phone, and reconnaissance planes. Willard also knew about the conditions of Kurtz?s location, he knew the natives followed Kurtz, and that it was going to be a gruesome scene when he arrived. As he arrived up river, Willard saw bodies hanging from ropes and was not the least bit affected by it. Weapons were also an aspect that was different from the movie and the book. There were greater fatalities in the movie because guns and bombs are far deadlier than arrows or spears. In fact, Willard was affected by the shear number of deaths he witnessed, especially the death of the character played by Lawerence Fishburne, who was just a child. Technology affected Willard just as the lack of technology affected Marlow in various instances.
Although there are many differences between the journeys in Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, there are a few similarities. A noticeable similarity in the journeys is that both Willard and Marlow?s ships get shot at by the natives. What makes the connection between the movie and the book is that in both stories the boats get shot with arrows, and a crewmember dies. Another major similarity is the fact that the natives at the end of the journey follow Kurtz as though he were a god. In the book, the natives listen to the orders of Kurtz and attack the boat to stop them from taking him. In the movie, there are a few signs that Kurtz is highly respected by the natives. In one scene as Willard comes up the river he sees a large wooden head, which resembles Kurtz. Another example is the scene where Willard comes out of Kurtz?s room, and the natives looked stunned. Then Willard walks through the crowd of natives and they all make way for him as he passes through. The natives are clearly in a state of disarray as their leader, their savior, had died. In either journey no matter where it was located, the natives clearly felt the loss of a man they cherished and revered.
Although the journeys that Marlow and Willard make are similar in the fact that they are both looking for Kurtz, the motivations for the journeys are different. Marlow?s expedition through Africa at the time was to find Kurtz, who had been searching and accumulating ivory, gold, and slaves. The main reason for Willard?s expedition is to look for a general named Kurtz who has gone crazy, one who is waging a war different from the one intended to keep communism out of parts of Vietnam. Willard and Marlow are both on the same journey, but they are fueled by different motivations and located on two different continents.
There may be many minor differences between Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now; but there is one major difference. In Heart of Darkness Marlow assumes that he will return to civilization after finding Kurtz. This was always understood since the company he works for wants to know where all the ivory was. In Apocalypse Now it is a different story, it is assumed that the mission is one in which Willard was not expected to return. The scene in which Willard meets with the generals to discuss the assassination of Kurtz, there was no discussion of whether Willard would return or not. These two different mentalities are portrayed and tested throughout each characters excursion to find Kurtz.
On his tiresome journey, Marlow changes from a man looking for Kurtz, to a man closely obsessed to meeting the man behind the hype:
?In the interior you will no doubt meet Mr. Kurtz?. On my asking
who Kurtz was, he said he was a first-class agent; and seeing my
disappointment at this information, he added slowly, laying down
his pen, ?He is a very remarkable person?. (Conrad 84)
This conversation with the accountant obviously sparks Marlow?s interest in Kurtz. At the central station some two hundred miles later, Marlow?s interest grows even deeper. A conversation with the manager leads Marlow to believe that Kurtz is a remarkable and distinctive man, who is very ill at the time. Marlow is now impatient and cannot stand the wait for the rivets to come for his ship, so he can finally meet Kurtz. When Marlow finally meets Kurtz, he is truly amazed at the type of man Kurtz is. Marlow desires to kill Kurtz at first, but as he converses with Kurtz his mindset is changed. Kurtz appears to be an intelligent man, whose soul had gone mad. Marlow sees this, and now feels as if he must take care of Kurtz, to save an extraordinary human being. This is the exact opposite of how Willard feels in the movie.
Willard is almost the exact opposite of Marlow, and he shows it from the beginning to the end of the movie. Willard begins the movie in a hotel room drunk, exploring the depths of his sorrow. Willard is experiencing with drawl from not being out in the jungle, fighting for democracy. Willard wishes to return to action, and soon his wish is granted. He is given a secret mission by the army to assassinate Kurtz. Willard does not seem up to the idea of being an assassin as he begins his journey, but by the end he has transformed into a full-fledged killer. Meeting Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore definitely has an effect on Willard. Kilgore shows Willard that life is difficult, and to be an American means being the best at everything. This is shown in the scene where Kilgore and his men are bombing a Vietnamese town, while playing music in the background. The music symbolizes American superiority and a feeling of invincibility. Willard and his crew are now making their way upriver, and they spot a Vietnamese fishing boat. Pulling it over for inspection, the situation drastically changes and they kill innocent people, but save a puppy. Willard is shown sitting on the opposite side of the boat observing as the event unfolds. Willard seems to notice the recklessness that life brings, and the utter disregard for life that the crew seemed to display. The only member who shows some sympathy is the Chef, who cries, but is ignored by the rest of the crew as if nothing had happened. It seems as if Willard suddenly cares less and less about the lives of others as he saw how fragile it was and how it easy it was to take it away. Willard?s conscience breaks when Lawrence Fishburne?s character died. A child had died to fight in a war that made no sense, and now Willard is finally set on his mission to kill. As he pulls up into Kurtz?s base, Willard sees the sickness and decided to rid of it. Meeting with the madman Kurtz only makes things worse, Willard is disgusted at what was going on. After he kills Kurtz, Willard seems confused on what he would do next, weather to give the order to bomb the village or let the innocent followers live. It was a major difference from Heart of Darkness, where Marlow goes back to England a more educated person, but not necessarily a mentally scarred person such as Willard.
Though there are various differences and slight similarities, Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now both portray the same journey into the jungle and inescapably into each character?s self. Although located in different regions of the world, in different time periods, with different factors, each character faced many different events and situations that inevitably changed their perspective. Marlow ultimately learned of the value of a life, and the effects one man can have on another. On the other hand Willard had gained a total disregard for human beings, and will probably stayed in the assassin mindset for a long period of time after the Vietnam War was over. Whether book or movie the ending was the same, the entertainment came in the subtle differences one could notice.