Academic Master

Education, English

Common Themes In Heart Of Darkness And Apocalypse Now


Critically acclaimed Apocalypse Now (1979) was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who began his career as a dialogue director sound-man and then eventually went on to become the director. The film was written by Coppola himself, along with John Milius and Michael Herr. The film is a combination of vivid cinematography, visionary directing, and smart storytelling. Francis Ford Coppola played a significant role in this movie by adding a flair of art to the movie. It has become an enormous screen accomplishment, appreciated for its beauty, vision, and scope all across the world (Venetia, Rainey, pp. 1-3). This film is definitely full of talent. The film’s continuous source of surprise is the method characters develop to hide and disclose their secretive benefits and the way others misjudge them. Dependably challenging and entertaining throughout the initial period, it ticks into extraordinary gear midway. The film examines the main character’s actions as it moves the story along at a brisk pace, a considerable achievement in itself. Production design was entirely up to the mark, and costumes used in the film boosted the film’s look of intended reality, adding much-needed flair to the movie. The film and the novel Heart of Darkness do not give away their mysteries too soon, and the blunt talk in the movie is scintillating for the viewer. The Theme that Both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now have in common is “Hypocrisy.”


If we analyze Apocalypse Now on a deeper level, we realize that it is all about man’s inevitability to choose between good and evil. We came to the conclusion that it is generally about a situation where a person has to choose between the right and wrong path. Sometimes, choosing the right path could turn into evil for him in the future, but sometimes, one has to face the reality and challenges of life in order to make the right decision. The film is all about making the right decision at the right moment and choosing between good and evil. Every once in a while, Apocalypse Now is not about any other war but about the catastrophic United States involvement in Vietnam. The United States was not able to choose correctly between good and evil, and eventually, they paid a huge price for it. Heart of Darkness, on the other hand, shows the hypocrisy and greedy nature of men on all levels. The Novel shows that a person is willing to do anything wrong as long as his greed is fulfilled.

The concept of Apocalypse Now was developed ten years back from a script made by John Milius. The script of the movie was grounded on the basis of revelations and stories of people who participated in the Vietnam War. The movie title was copied from the Disclosures of John. But John wanted a proper and enticing story to base it all on. Francis recommended Heart of Darkness by Conrad. Apocalypse Now is a spectacular work of art and as technically complex and masterful as any war movie that has ever been made (Ebert, Roger, pp. 1-3). The movie induces the appearance and spirits of the much dreaded Vietnam War, dealing in impressions for which no clarifications are satisfactory or essential. Apocalypse Now was shot in the Philippines and made to look like Vietnam with all that bloodshed and artistic effects of a war movie. Apocalypse Now wants to be something more than just a war film; it wants to entice its viewers about the horrors of war and how it changes a person, and effects countries on a much large scale (Ebert, Roger, pp. 1-3). Apocalypse Now is not just an ordinary movie that tells about the horrors of war. Instead, the film deals not only with the appearances and effects of war but also with other aspects of life like fate, the difference between good and evil, human feelings and emotions, and various other subjects that could affect human lifestyle.

This mysterious man, named Kurtz, whom we meet in the film’s closing section, is a renegade Green Berets officer who has taken protection in the jungles of Cambodia. From there, he initiates his own wars, much to the anger of his superiors (Richard, Roud, pp.1-3). Conrad is somewhat vague about the atrocious things that Kurtz is up to. We know only that he rules his native people with a bloody hand and attracts them with the help of his sorcery. He scares his people into doing things they normally wouldn’t do. His people are scared of him due to his powers. The Marlow character is now a battle-scarred Special Services officer known as Captain Willard, who is allocated by the commanding general to go into Cambodia in order to find Kurtz and dismiss him as quickly as possible. This sometimes vague plot has been enforced on the film from the very beginning, which keeps interjecting the usual flow of Francis’s incredible reflection upon war.

The major chunk of the film is engaged with Willard’s adventures as he travels upriver. Those scenes of the film are often mesmerizing, none more so than one in which Willard and his acquaintances are forced to witness an attack on a Vietcong village by fighter planes of the American Air Force. That scene gives an idea about the horrors of the war and what it feels like to see someone get hurt in a war. With the exclusion of Brando, who has almost no role in acting, the actors are exceptionally right. This may sound like overkill, but the most mesmerizing fragment of the film is when Willard is directed toward the river in the boat given to him by the Army to assassinate Colonel Kurtz. Colonel Kurtz’s techniques are considered by the upper command to be illogical and flawed (Cahir, Linda Costanzo, pp.1-3). This is intended to be really ironic since American methods are also considered illogical and flawed as well in Vietnam. The first half of the movie is really pretty and flamboyant cinema. All those smoke bombs, creative effects, and atmospheric mist make this movie a spectacle to watch. Even the napalm sequences are visually ravishing. The last half of the movie was more of an experience than a movie.

Conrad’s novel follows Marlow down the Congo River to Mr. Kurtz. He wanted the assignment but didn’t expect what he found there. And as with many such stories, where a man is sent to do one thing, something else happens – they come face-to-face with themselves. It’s true of all of us; we find out what we are made of when we are put into extreme situations. For both Willard and Marlow, the farther upriver they go, the farther they get away from civilization and the rules that govern men’s behavior. Instincts replace rules, and the law of the jungle replaces the laws of man. In those circumstances, Kurtz – both Mr. Kurtz and Col. Kurtz – chose to let absolute power corrupt them absolutely. Conversely, Marlow and Willard, having followed the same path, do not give in to the evil that lives in the hearts of all men – and that’s the point. Every one of us is capable of good and evil, and it’s the decisions we make that define us. Willard tells us all along that he doesn’t know what he’ll do once he meets Col. Kurtz. He has to decide for himself, once he reaches Kurtz and evaluates the situation, what the right thing to do is. Ultimately, he decides to kill Kurtz, not because he is ordered to do so, but because he believes it’s the right thing to do. Marlow doesn’t have to decide Mr. Kurtz’s fate because he dies of natural causes, but in both stories, the Marlow/Willard characters learn something about themselves, as well as the fact that the men who presume to sit in judgment of others, whether in the jungles of Africa or Vietnam, are greedy liars and hypocrites.

If we make a comparison between Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Conrad’s Novel “Heart of Darkness” ” in spite of the spatial and chronological differences, we have found a few similarities. The simple spirit of human nature and imperialism remains to be seen in both books and in the novel. The major characters of the movie have some striking similarities to their fictional colleagues. In Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, both Francis Ford and Joseph Conrad generate comparable declarations through their conceptions as both of them consolidate their views on the major effects of environmental alterations that affect the overall condition of human beings. Francis Ford’s film Apocalypse Now ambiguously echoes a comparable message given by the novel Conrad.

Both Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” intensely demonstrate the voyage of man into their inner self and encounters of man with their departure, irrationality, and uncertainties. The film and novel are embraced with frequent fundamental themes that simplify the understanding of the meaning of both works. The utmost outstanding parallels that can be conveyed when connecting themes in both the novella and the film are associated with human nature. The theme of hypocrisy is incorporated by both Conrad and Coppola in order to depict man’s unbelievable perspective on evil. The theme of hypocrisy is assimilated in both works for the purpose of depicting man’s astounding and ridiculous potential for evil. The Hypocrisy of Europeans is shown in a way that they generally say that their primary intentions in Africa are to trade with the inhabitants and submerge them with the light of sophistication. But their actions show that they take the ivory from the citizens by power and treat them cold-bloodedly. If we compare both the movie and the novel, we can determine that both Coppola’s Army and Conrad’s Company are a topsy-turvy group of men whose hypocrisy is interrogated by the dominant characters.


Generally, Apocalypse Now breathes up to its striking name. The movie reveals not only the numerous faces of combat but also the illogicalities between tediousness and enthusiasm, fear and disappointment, cruelty and attractiveness. Overall, Apocalypse Now has its flaws and limitations, but it is a beautiful epiphany of natural beauty and horrors of war, and overall, it was the brilliant direction from Francis Ford Coppola. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness novel also lives up to its reputation and shows the theme of hypocrisy engrossed in human nature. Conrad showed that men have an unbelievable prospect of evil, and more often than not, they find themselves in a position to get manipulated into doing evil things.

Works Cited

Ebert, Roger. “Apocalypse Now Movie Review & Film Summary (1979) | Roger Ebert.” N. p., 1979. pp. 1-3

Cahir, Linda Costanzo. “Narratological Parallels In Joseph Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness” And Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” – Proquest.”  N. p. (1992) pp. 1-3

Venetia, Rainey. “Apocalypse Now: The Original 1979 Reviews.” The Week UK. (2011) pp. 1-3

Richard Roud “Apocalypse Now: Archive Review.” the Guardian. N. p. (2010) pp. 1-3



Calculate Your Order

Standard price





Pop-up Message