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Essay on Apocalypse Now: Movie versus Book

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Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Copolla, is a video interpretation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which bashed Europe’s involvement in Africa. Although set during the Vietnam War instead of the Congo during European Imperialism, Copolla very well shows the comparison of the two works. For instance, both portray a native culture and the negative impact of the outside world on it. Also, in both works, Kurtz, an outside to the land, has gone insane and a man, Willard in Apocalypse Now and Marlow in Heart of Darkness, is sent on a mission to either exterminate or capture him. Among the many similarities, there are also many differences between the two works which best become aware to the reader during the scene of Kurtz’s death.
In Heart of Darkness, when Marlow arrives at Kurtz’s station, Kurtz is very sick and frail, clinging to life. As a result of Kurtz’s delicate state, readers are not fully aware of the extent of Kurtz’s savagery and total loss of sanity because one does not see him commit such horrifying acts. Although the readers have seen the death symbols such as the heads on stakes earlier in the novel and have heard what Kurtz has done, they have not seen Kurtz personally act in savage ways but instead must rely on his surroundings to determine his lack of sanity. Although it is obvious what has happened to Kurtz, the fact that one does not see Kurtz do wrong is a major factor in the death of Kurtz.
In Copolla’s Apocalypse now, viewers instantly become aware of Kurtz’s savagery as soon as Willard meets him. Just before Willard reaches Kurtz, he and his men see the heads on stakes but unlike Heart of Darkness, this is not the final image of savagery. After capturing Willard, Kurtz has him tied up. While sitting...


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...to Conrad, help to appeal to the viewers in a way that Conrad’s symbolism and imagery was unable to do.
In the 1800’s, Conrad viscously criticized European Imperialism in his novel Heart of Darkness. Decades later, Francis Copolla created a visual interpretation of Heart of Darkness with his movie Apocalypse Now which criticized America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Copolla used his technological resources to his advantage in order to compare the two by referring to Conrad’s novel. There are many similarities with the two works however in the scene of Kurtz’s death, there are more differences because Copolla is able to visually appeal to the audience by showing exactly what is happening. By using visually striking images, Copolla is able to alter Conrad’s story in his favor and better portray the loss of sanity and the affect of Imperialism on a native culture.



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