An Industry of Adaptations

An incredible amount of films are book-to-movie adaptations. Some of the highest grossing films, like Avengers: Endgame and Gone with the Wind, are sourced from other material. Apocalypse Now is a twisted book-to-movie adaptation based on Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. Both works follow a man travelling into a haunted realm with the goal of finding the mysterious Kurtz, who integrated himself with a primitive civilization.

Coppola and Conrad

Francis Ford Coppola is careful doing Heart of Darkness justice by keeping its core principles in his film. For instance, as Marlow travels farther down the river in the novel, his sanity slips further away. Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now experiences the same horrors but associated with the Vietnam War. Before he even makes it to Kurtz, he is a different man. Coppola uses innovation in cinematography, direction, and sound to build a sense of dread and urgency. Conrad’s diction throughout the novel conveys the same feelings, leaving the reader exposed to also tumble into the devolution the protagonist experiences. Coppola’s plentiful action and Conrad’s narration are both highly effective in producing the raw emotion of Marlow and Willard.

Those creative decisions assist the climax of both works to leave everyone unsettled. When the protagonists finally reach Kurtz, they are different men. Their journey led them down a path they never imagined. As Kurtz dies, Willard and Marlow react similarly. For example, Marlow does not even confirm the death for himself. He grows numb to any tragedy, and despite his mission failing, he lacks any care. Willard calmly walks through the village after killing Kurtz. His words embody the plight of his journey: “They were gonna make me a Major for this, and I wasn’t even in their fucking army anymore.”


Fyodor Dostoyevsky is no stranger to book-to-movie adaptations involving his work. Filmmaker Vitaly Sumin adapted Dostoyevksy’s Notes from the Underground in 2011. Sumin’s film, Notes from the New World, is a modern adaptation to the novel taking place in Los Angeles. This modernization is similar to Apocalypse Now, as that film brought Heart of Darkness into the Vietnam War. Sumin’s adaptation follows a struggling actor, Steven, who wrestles between the love of two women.. His troubles intensify as he becomes involved with the Russian mafia, continuing his ideological torment and political apathy.

Troubled Productions

A book-to-movie adaptation is not where these artistic works end in similarities. Both Apocalypse Now and Notes from the New World experienced tumultuous productions. A typhoon, resistance from the Philippines government, a heart attack, and copious other problems led to an infamous production for Apocalypse Now. While Vitaly Sumin did not experience a typhoon, his production was not smooth sailing. His original co-writer, Robert Hurley, disappeared mid-shoot, leaving the entire crew and cast baffled. Later discovered in Hurley’s room were cult-related illustrations and signs that he was tied to the Russian mob. Naturally, this caused a rough production, and it was all documented. Now, Vitaly is releasing this incredible turn of events with his new film Dostoyevsky Reimagined, which is now in post-production.

Be sure to check out VM Production’s “Movies You’d Never Imagine Are Adaptations!” for more book-to-movie adaptations.

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VM Productions is happy to announce that the pre-production of our feature length project Crime & Punishment, LA – following by the shoot of the movie – is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 8th, 2020 in Los Angeles!

Crime and Punishment, LA, represents the third chapter of VM Productions ambitious Dostoyevsky-LA Project (following the completed movies Shades of Day & Notes From the New World) – a re-envisioning of Dostoyevsky’s classic novel transported to LA during the riots of 1992. C&P, LA -currently in the active development- was selected, as the winner, for the European Co-Production Matchmaking Program at SXSW –


Want to know about VM ProductionsDostoyevsky-Los Angeles Project and about the films we make? Want to participate in our projects? Sign up to get tickets to the premiere of our movie (currently in post production), Dostoyevsky Reimagined-BTS and grab our FREE e-books !

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Nik Daniels

Nik has had an affinity with entertainment since a young age. Determined to be part of the industry, he spent his life creating and consuming. His favorite art includes work by Stanley Kubrick and H.P. Lovecraft, but he also loves comedy and hopes to master its writing. After spending years at the University of Georgia studying entertainment and interning, he continues to stay active in creating content.

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