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Heart of Darkness/ Apocalypse Now Comapre and Contrast
Transcript of Heart of Darkness/ Apocalypse Now Comapre and Contrast
Major Character- Charles Marlow
Marlow is the story teller in the Heart of Darkness. Unlike Willard, who narrates everything in his point of view, Marlow merely shares his experience with the narrator. He is a sailor who is on his way to Congo in order to work for a company. Comparatively an intellectual individual, Marlow is skeptical of the European imperialism and the method of colonizing other countries. His attitude is rather satirical, and his tone shows that his view of others is often negative and critical. The similarity between the events Marlow goes through in the novel and Joseph Conrad's personal experience hints us that Marlow is actually a reflection of the author himself. Conrad had also traveled to and worked at the Congo river as a captain of a steamer.
In the beginning, he is oblivious of the darkness that lies in the jungle. As the novel progresses, Marlow slowly falls to the horror of Heart of Darkness during his journey.
Comparison as a Whole
The protagonist of the film is named Captain Willard, but he takes the same persona as Marlow in The Heart of Darkness. Unlike Marlow, he is well aware of the “horror” in the beginning. During the intro scene, where he punches a mirror and acts crazy, it is clear that Willard has experienced the darkness of the jungle.
Although he narrates and points out the absurd, dark nature of war and humanity throughout the film, Willard is comparatively a muted, silent observer whose only purpose is to assassinate Kurtz.
Heart of Darkness
I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said "yes" to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger. Each time I looked around the walls moved in a little tighter.
Conrad’s novel takes place in the late 19th century. It occurs at the height of colonialism in a period European imperialism. The book begins in the city of Brussels, referred to as the "white sepulchral" city. There is a sense of evil in the air, even as the city is described as pure white. Marlow travels to Africa on a steam boat, which is another important setting in the novel. As the boat travels deeper and into the wilderness, the foreboding and dark nature of the jungle begins to take shape.The jungle is constantly referred to as “dark” by Marlow and other characters in the novel, signifying it as a place of evil and suffering.
“Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him,—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men.”
As the novel progresses, Marlow begins to feel the savage nature of the jungle closing in on his psyche. It slowly drives him insane due to the evils that are hidden within the jungle. The slavery and death that surrounds him as he enters the outer station and Kurtz's compound is very much due to the savage nature of the jungle.
Setting (Vietnam & Cambodia)
Apocalypse Now may be a war film, but it is not a typical one. It takes place during the height of the United States involvement in Vietnam. At the time, the United States was attempting to stop the spread of Communist influence into Vietnam. The beginning of the film takes place in a military camp. There, Willard is stationed and seems to be at safe. As the film progresses, Willard travels deeper into the Vietnamese, and later Cambodian jungles.
One pivotal scene involves an encounter with a tiger. Chef and Willard enter the jungle to find some mangos. They leave the jungle screaming and terrified. They were surprised by the unknown nature of the jungle when a tiger came out of nowhere and attacked them.
"I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said "yes" to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle."
The jungle has a profound effect on all who enter it. It changes each member of Willard's crew over the course of the novel. In the end, it takes the life of most of them.
An unnamed Russian man. He is referred to as the harlequin due to his colorful patched clothing. He worships Kurtz just as the native Africans do. He seems to analyze everything Kurtz has ever said or has done. Kurtz has set up a Cult of Personality in his compound, and the Russian is fully possessed by it.
Unlike the Photojournalist, the Russian comes from a different country than Marlow. Kurtz’s corruption is not as evident to Marlow, as the man is already a foreigner. The Russian speaks normal English, with no noteworthy dialect or colloquialisms.
An unnamed American photojournalist who seems obsessed with Kurtz. He tells Marlow of Kurtz’s wisdom and military genius. He is dressed as a normal combat photographer, yet his uniform is quite colorful. His unique of method of speech is tinged with the “hippie” culture of the time. Kurtz seems to dislike his presence and calls him a “mutt”.
"I tell you, that man
has enlarged my mind."
Just like the Russian, the photojournalist states the famous quote.
In Heart of Darkness, the word "nigger" is used. It is used in an offhand way, almost as a simple noun. It is used to refer to the enslaved Africans that Marlow encounters in the Congo. While the word itself is insulting, it is used in an ignorant context. Marlow as the narrator uses the racial slur repeatedly and the word is used throughout the novel and is not concentrated in one portion of it.
“Strings of dusty niggers with splay feet arrived and departed; a stream of manufactured goods, rubbishy cottons, beads, and brass-wire set into the depths of darkness, and in return came a precious trickle of ivory.”
In Apocalypse Now, the word gook is often used by the US military to refer to the Vietnamese soldiers. Kilgore specifically uses the word as an insult in order to refer to them as inferior beings. The use of the word is only present at a specific time in the film, before the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene. Willard doesn’t utilize the racial slur at all during the film.
Kilgore says: “What's the name of that goddamn village -- Vin Drin Dop or Lop; damn gook names all sound the same.”
The Congo River
During Marlow’s journey, he finds it difficult to get to the inner station because the water flows upriver, pushing him back to the sea. The river represents the journey and route Europeans take in order to get to the deep parts of Congo. The upriver direction of the water symbolizes the hardship Marlow experiences during his journey.
“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish.”
The Nung River
Unlike the Congo river from the Heart of Darkness, the Nung river acts as more of a place of sanctuary. When Chef encounters a tiger and runs back to the boat, he yells “Never get off the boat.” The river is a safe zone from the savageness and darkness of the jungle. It also shows the transformation of men as Wilard travels deeper into the jungle. The soldiers slowly transform immoral as he goes further with the river.
"Never get out of the boat." Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin' all the way... Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin' program.”
The novel Heart of Darkness was based upon many of Conrad’s own experiences as first mate of a riverboat in the Congo. He sailed on the riverboat Roi des Belges in the late 19th century, and while there he was overwhelmed with moral struggle as he saw the traders. They would ruthlessly degrade and exploit any natives that they could, and treated them as sub-human. Conrad stated though, that the savagery of the jungle removed any advantages civilization might have bestowed upon the white colonists. How he responded to his time there would eventually lay the foundation for arguably his most powerful work, Heart of Darkness, in 1899.
Overall, the plot is relatively simple, as Marlow finds himself without a job in the opening, something Conrad had experienced himself in his youth. Against his initial apprehension, he gets contracted as a riverboat captain for “The Company,” a Belgium-based company that would export ivory from the Congo. Upon his arrival, Marlow finds his boat wrecked, and he later serves as a mate on one of the steamboats that sailed upriver. Here, he is given his mission to save Kurtz, who had become renowned throughout the Congo as a trader of ivory and master of civilizing the natives.
As the story progresses, Marlow learns that Kurtz is not only an ivory trader, but instead a sort of deranged visionary. Kurtz had been changed during his time in the African wilderness, and when Marlow finally meets him, instead of this champion of civilization, he finds a Kurtz who has fallen to savagery, and uses fear to subjugate the natives. The station itself is decorated with heads and skulls upon sticks, and the natives hold dark ceremonies in honor of Kurtz. Marlow attempts to save him, by bringing him back on the boat, narrowly escaping an ambush by the natives, but fails as Kurtz dies on the journey due to his sickness. As he dies, he whispers his ominous last words, “The horror! The horror!”
The resonating idea from Heart of Darkness comes from many of the devastating experiences Marlow has during his journey through the Congo. The world that Conrad presents to the reader grows corrupted and dark, leaving nothing unscathed. Marlow notes how his journey becomes darker and stranger, even the characters becoming more and more eccentric. He starts with the greedy traders who he titled “pilgrims,” moving on to the Russian who wore dress clothes in the jungle, and finally Kurtz, the ultimate symbol of insanity. There are no individuals who are allowed to retain any of their original dignity, even the innocent natives who served Kurtz out of fear. Marlow finds everyone to have lost their sense of society, and through Heart of Darkness, the reader is able to see the Congo from Marlow’s point of view. It is a strange, horrible place, lacking respect for anybody’s stature or character, and civilized life becomes nothing more than a distant memory.
Apocalypse Now tells the story of Willard's complicity in the Vietnam War, and his willingness to "Terminate with extreme prejudice" a fellow American Army officer: Col. Walter E. Kurtz, a distinguished operations Commander in the Special Forces, a man considered "one of the most outstanding of ficers this country's produced". It was directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979.
Captain Willard is hired as an assassin to kill Kurtz, and is sent to Cambodia during the Vietnam War. He is captured by Kurtz, who controls the natives, but Kurtz lets Willard kill him. Willard once again realizes the horror of the jungle.
While the movie's plot clearly parallels the plot of the novel, there are many new themes suggested in the film. By incorporating the setting of Congo, Africa, as Vietnam during the Vietnam war, Copolla modernizes the piece to appropriately approach the viewers of late 1970's. This change in setting also introduces new themes. The American soldiers in the film are obsessed with Playboy show girls and Rock n'Roll. They do not care for the war, and only work for the petty rewards. When Marlow arrives to the battlefield, he sees a group of cameramen who films the battle and yells "This is for the TV!". Apocalypse Now criticizes the blank, meaningless values men work for, and states that it's absurd.
Both the novel and the film use the jungle as a sort of gateway through time. The beginning of the works are rooted in society and a sense of order. In the book, the city of Brussels is large and expansive. In the film, Willard has dinner in a beautifully arranged table complete with the comforts of home. As the works progress, the boat seems to travel through time as it goes upriver. By the end, Kurtz's compound is home severed heads on pikes, and the ritualistic slaughtering of a cow. This is not a case of anachronism, but Conrad and Coppola are attempting to prove a point. The savage nature of the jungles present in both works transport human society to a point where such actions are acceptable and acted upon.
Willard and Marlow both go to the jungle in order to encounter Kurtz.
Racial slurs are used in both works to refer to the natives of the land.
Both the Russian and the Journalist seem to be insane due to Kurtz’s influence. They both have ornately colored clothing.
The jungle hides Kurtz hellish compounds in both the novel and the film.
The Nung River and the Congo River serves as the only mode of transportation to get to Kurtz.
Darkness is used in both works to create a fear of the unknown. Scenes in the movie flash from light to dark constantly to create an off putting atmosphere. Similarly, the word darkness is used in various contexts to create atmosphere.
Similarly to the film, the jungle serves as a catalyst for the madness of the Kurtz characters. Both “got off the boat” and engage in savage and primal behaviors due to the jungle’s influence.
Kurtz is one of the workers for the company, dealing in ivory trades in the Congo Free State. He quickly moves up to being head of the Inner Station, a position at the very top of the dealings. Many other workers in the Company envy his position, while the natives of Africa worship him as some sort of god. Throughout the region, Kurtz’s name is known to everyone, and almost becomes synonymous with power and ivory. However, he falls ill, and appears to go insane, as evidenced by his collection of heads on sticks around his office. As he falls to corruption, we see that he no longer has the same civility he once did. In his report to the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, Kurtz writes over the page “Exterminate all the brutes!” Eventually, he dies to his illness, stating his last words, “The horror! The horror!” which can be seen as a realization of the dark deeds he has committed.
A West Point graduate, Colonel Kurtz was an officer who apparently rose through the ranks very quickly. He had been involved in numerous tours during the Vietnam War, and eventually was accepted to be a Green Beret in the 5th Special Forces Group. In his final tour of Vietnam, he was instructed to create an army of the natives, and he does so at an abandoned temple. The people there almost seem to worship Kurtz, following his every whim, without even thinking about it. This could be attributed to the fear tactics Kurtz uses, brutally attacking or executing those who oppose him, but also could have to do with his mastery of vocal command. The power of Kurtz can be felt in the way he speaks, as it overpowers the listener and demands attention. His insanity and brutish tactics however, force the army to send Willard to kill him, which is ultimately a success, as Kurtz is cut down near the end of the film.
Brussels, Belgium is described as the “White Sepulchre” in the Heart of Darkness. This phrase is a reference to the Gospel of Matthew. In this biblical book, White Sepulchre is described as something beautiful yet terrifying as it contains horror within the dead bodies. Even though the Belgian Imperialism was cruel, its homeland is peaceful and beautiful. In addition, the people who live there seem to be out of touch, believing imperialism to be one of the greatest services to the uncultured world. This sentiment is especially visible in Marlow's aunt, who is called out of touch after Marlow hears her goodbye. These ideas accurately portray the hypocrisy of European Colonialism at the time, while also providing insight into the viewpoints of the people there.
The Lunch Table
Near the opening of the film, Willard is summoned by the commanding officers to be briefed about his mission. As they brief him, they also sit down to a hot lunch, with a man offering roast beef that’s “usually not that bad,” and everyone enjoying a rather exquisite meal. However, during this they discuss the plan to assassinate Kurtz, and it is representative of Brussels in that it is hypocritical and ironic. This lunch also serves as a symbol of the men’s desperate attempts to maintain some sense of civilization while out in the wild jungles of Vietnam. In the middle of the jungle, they require their social decorum, but have no reserves killing people mere moments later.
“Everything belonged to him - but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own. That was the reflection that made you creepy all over. It was impossible — it was not good for one either - trying to imagine. He had taken a high seat amongst the devils of the land - I mean literally.
As Marlow reflects on Kurtz’s thought of owning everything, he also notes how monstrous Kurtz had become. He states that Kurtz had succumbed to the darkness, a common theme in the jungle, and emphasizes the insanity that overwhelms him.
As he narrates, Willard demonstrates his shock at his surroundings, and how amazing Kurtz must have been to claim it and make it his own. He calls him the only light in the darkness, an ironic statement that also shows a duality of Kurtz, as a hero to his people, but a monster to the Army.
“Somehow, in the middle of this ...carnival, Kurtz had grown into something -- a gifted officer; a great man. Somehow, he was the only light in this hopeless, hopeless darkness. And now I was too late -- he was probably gone, disappeared… by a grenade rolled into his tent -- or by some spear on the head. Christ, I felt like howling like those animals in the fog.”
"In a very few hours I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulchre. Prejudice no doubt. I had no difficulty in finding the Company's offices. It was the biggest thing in the town, and everybody I met was full of it. They were going to run an over-sea empire, and make no end of coin by trade."
“Well, you see, Willard, in this war, things get confused out there. Power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God. Because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.”