Elements of Darkness in Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness
In both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness certain elements of darkness attempt to show how deep one must look inside themselves to discover the truth. Conrad portrays the idea of the darkness of the human heart through things such as the interior of the jungle and it's immensity, the Inner Station, and Kurtz's own twisted deeds. Coppola's heart of darkness is represented by the madness of the Vietnam War and how even to look for a purpose in it all; is itself quite mad.
It was no accident that a documentary was made on Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film, "Apocalypse Now" entitled "Hearts of Darkness- A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" since the production of the film was something of a horrific journey for those involved. Throughout the production, the cast and crew were plagued by some serious problems. A typhoon that nearly destroyed the set, budget problems, suicide threats from Coppola, and Martin Sheen having a heart attack were just a few things that were faced during the filming. The descent into madness that went along with making "Apocalypse Now" mirrored the film's own themes and also reflected the themes of "Heart of Darkness", the Conrad novella that the film is based on. The theme of a journey into human darkness is something shared by both the film and the book but each tells the story in a different and unique way.
The basic plots of "Apocalypse Now" and "Heart of Darkness" are very similar. Both films have a main character that makes a journey down a long and winding river to find a man name Kurtz. In the film the protagonist is a Special Forces captain named Willard, in the book he is called Marlow. The film seems to have a more direct plot as Willard is sent by his commanders to "eliminate with extreme prejudice" a renegade named Kurtz who is hiding with his followers deep in the jungle of Vietnam. The character in the book, Marlow, is at first in a journey to be a steamboat captain on the Belgian Congo and eventually takes up the assignment of finding a sick Kurtz at his trading station in the core of the jungle.
The settings of the film and the book are also quite similar but different. The book takes place at the turn of the century where, on the Belgian Congo, French traders have begun business along the river and are using native slaves. The book depicts acts of slavery done on the part of whites who are running the operation. The idea of slavery is reflected in the film as the treatment of the Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War. Just as Marlow witnesses the dying slaves at the outposts, Willard is confronted by the horrors of war in the Vietnamese villages. Vietnam is used in the setting of the film to further illustrate the theme of human darkness, which is explored even further as the film goes on.
The idea of human darkness in both the film and the book is expressed through the madness that many of the...