Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now
Trying to carry on in an unfamiliar society for a long duration of time can lead to madness and chaos. Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now share many parallels and similar ideas to demonstrate that humans can become monstrous beings upon entering an environment that is alien to them. While the stories are not symmetrical, both highlight the importance of setting, focus on character development, and contrast lightness and darkness to illustrate symbolism.
In both tales, the invading forces are placed into an environment that is unlike anything they have experienced before in their lives. It is thick and dense, and it creates a psychological parameter that changes these men into monsters. In Heart of Darkness, the Congo provides very little space for the men to live in, which constricts their thinking and limits their ability to act rationally. As the men make their way up the Congo River and delve deeper into this mysterious land, the river begins to symbolize the connection between, what we believe to be, good and evil. Marlow refers to the river as a snake at one point, which could signify that the river represents a horrifying evil. The farther the squad goes up the river, it feels like they become more heavy – more bogged down with the weight of this evil on their backs.
Apocalypse Now uses the setting uses the same dynamics of Heart of Darkness’s dense Congo setting, but converts it into a Vietnam War setting. It uses the same heavy feelings of constriction, tightness, and uncomfortable limitation to create a similar result. The director uses tight camera angles and dense jungle footage to create a claustrophobic effect that disrupts the characters’ psychological normality and warps their basic human morals. The director is making a point that this was not the right place for young American men to be wielding guns. This is evident in a scene where the soldiers,