Comparing Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness And Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now

2124 words - 8 pages

Parallels Between Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now

   Apocalypse Now is a very vivid and sometimes disturbing film centered on the Vietnam War. Because it was based on Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, it is possible to draw some parallels between the two. Both can be interpreted as metaphors for a journey through the inner self, and each has its own singular message to convey. Apocalypse Now very perspicuously depicts the fact that men have hearts of darkness, and it explores the evils of war. At the same time, however, it seemingly glorifies some aspects. The anti-war sequences were often brutal and portrayed destruction as a result of the human condition. The film Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, can be interpreted both as pro-war and anti-war in its intent, although the latter is a more valid interpretation.

           Apocalypse Now, graphic and disturbing, vividly depicts the true image of war. Coppola and his cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, presented a series of visually stunning images throughout the film that made it impossible for the viewer not to contemplate the Vietnam War, its purposes, and its shortcomings. These images also lead the audience to an anti-war sentiment. One of the first images that depicts the anti-war disposition was the series of visuals presented during the film's opening sequence, as Captain Willard, the protagonist, is shown in his hotel room in Saigon. A song titled "The End," by The Who, is played as images of helicopters flying overhead and exploding bombs flash across the screen. Willard is first shown lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling fan, which frequently merges with the helicopter blades. Later he is shown, wearing only his underwear, crying and yelling in a muted voice as the music plays on. He eventually puts his fist through the full-length mirror in the room. While it turned out that Willard's actions were not a result of scripting - they were Martin Sheen's own actions in a drunken stupor - they worked well for portraying Willard's psychological state after his first run in Vietnam. The combination of the song - aptly titled, as the scenes portray widespread destruction and inner turmoil - and the visuals of war serve to set the stage for the depiction of the destructiveness of war and the effects it has on mankind.

           Another of the firmly anti-war statements in the film was made as Willard and his crew were traveling down the Nung River. The crew came upon a small boat with a few native Vietnamese on board, and Chief, the boat's commander, ordered a search. After spending so much time in Vietnam, the natural response for him upon seeing Vietnamese people was to assume that they were undercover Vietcong soldiers. The search was futile, however, as there was nothing incriminating on board the ship, and the natives appeared to be obvious innocents. Chef, who had been ordered to conduct the search, was already...

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