Various parallels can be drawn when comparing and contrasting Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Frank Coppola's "Apocalypse Now", while taking into consideration Heart of Darkness is a novella and "Apocalypse Now" is a film. These differences and similarities can be seen in themes, characters, events and other small snippets of information including anything from quoted lines to strange actions of the main characters. Both pieces follow the same story line but they are presented in different contexts, allowing for many differences as well as the ability to see how Conrad is able to write a piece of literature that can be transposed to many different settings regardless the time period and still convey the same message of colonialism.
The most obvious and apparent parallel between "Apocalypse Now" and Heart of Darkness is the differences in the venues in which the stories take place as well as the era in which each piece are set. "Apocalypse Now" is set during the Vietnam War with the protagonist being Captain Willard, who is sent on a mission to kill one of his own. While in Heart of Darkness, the protagonist is Marlow, a Belgian who heads into the Congo to find one of his company's workers, respectively. Marlow and Willard both learn about the battle between good and evil, and the evil that the jungle can bring out in anyone. One great similarity is Marlow and Willard's ability to hold back from succumbing to the 'darkness' of the jungle by keeping their integrity and sticking to their goals. Consequently, Marlow and Willard are essentially the same character, however they have slight variations. Willard does not have the philosophical insight that Marlow has and is not always able to comprehend like him.
One large difference that I was able to find between Heart of Darkness and "Apocalypse Now" is the dependence and want of a substance. In Heart of Darkness, the great majority for the premise of Marlow's journey was built off of ivory expeditions and that is what Kurtz is all about. "Apocalypse Now" has no comparable ideal. The character of Kurtz is constant in both Heart of Darkness and "Apocalypse Now." In each piece Kurtz is a man with good intentions that turns evil from greed and what he finds in the jungle, whether it is an object or power. Kurtz sees himself in Marlow or Willard; because that is the type of person he was before entering the jungle. Even Marlow begins to feel that he is becoming like Kurtz when he says, "I was getting savage." Both Marlow and Willard are able to find their true selves in the jungle and through contact.
In Apocalypse Now, Captain Willard utters the line "cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies." The central theme in this line can be seen in both "Apocalypse Now" and Heart of Darkness. Essentially, this line depicts the truth of colonialism and imperialism, stating that we have the 'best' intentions and are going to civilize savages, even if we have to kill them, just to gain a sense of control and power. Unlike Heart of Darkness, "Apocalypse Now" shows the American's viewpoint on communism, do to the setting and time period and pulls in some political viewpoints based on the era. The United States, is horrified at the socialist idea that power at the top falls, and one reformed class is created. The United States is afraid that since Vietnam was a communist country that they might have influence on other countries, thus creating a sense of inferiority.
Yet another parallel can be drawn between the actions of the characters and elements of the setting. Though it is in slightly different contexts, there are similarities between the French ships shelling into the jungle and Willard's crew aimlessly shooting in the jungle. In Heart of Darkness Marlow's steamboat passes a French steamer that seems to be aimlessly firing into the jungle, with no visible attacker, this is very similar to how when Willard and Chef are in the jungle and the tiger leaps and makes a load growl. With that the men on the boat, shoot frantically into the woods, with no target. It is similar, for the exception that in one they are on the ship in which the shelling occurs, versus simply being a bystander. It shows how 'fire happy' these men were ready to fight and kill without a motive.
Heart of Darkness and "Apocalypse Now" both embody the theme of madness and insanity. In Heart of Darkness madness and insanity come as a result of imperialism, Africa is responsible for mental disintegration as well as for physical illness. Madness, in Heart of Darkness, is the result of being removed from ones normal environment and how each person adapts.