Converting a book to film has proven to be one of the most cinematically complex endeavors a director can make. By using a book, the director runs the risk of infringing on the viewer's imagination. Because books impact the reader on a more personal level by way of imagination, a movie based on a book serves only the director's interpretation. Because of this alleged dilemma, it is easy for people to criticize and ignore the unique aspects a director can bring to a movie. By using the major themes of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as inspiration, Francis Ford Coppola created an honest portrayal of one of the most controversial periods of time in America's history: the Vietnam war. Just as West Side Story was derived from the classic Romeo and Juliet, Coppola's interpretation of Conrad's novel is not without distinction or differences. Heart of Darkness more accurately acted as a template for any story involving humans behaving at a basic level. After viewing what can only be described as a thematically intense and visually striking film, it is easy for the viewer to disregard the art and distinguish Francis Ford Coppola's success in echoing the major themes of Heart of Darkness in Apocalypse Now through its characters and its moral implications. .
Through the use of an enigmatic and extreme focus, the character Kurtz, Apocalypse Now effectively reflected the major themes of Conrad's novel. Both the movie and the book introduce Kurtz with an air of intrigue and mystique. While questioning the importance of this once considered intelligent and charismatic man, Marlow and Willard become unknowingly obsessed and fascinated with him. The movie shows Willard reading on length about every aspect of the once prominent army official's life in the midst of death and examples of demeaning human behavior. After probing everyone's mind for information about the mysterious Kurtz, Marlow reflects, "His very existence was improbable, inexplicable, and altogether bewildering.