Kurtz: “The horror, the horror.”
These are Kurtz’s last words, uttered after Willard brutally slaughters him with a machete and repeated as the film fades to black at its end. The words revisit a monologue Kurtz delivers to Willard earlier in the film, intimating that if horror is not made to be one’s friend, it becomes “an enemy to be feared.” Kurtz’s last words—also spoken by Kurtz at the end of Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness—are enigmatic and can be taken to indicate several different outcomes. Critics generally agree, however, that these words signify Kurtz’s final acceptance of the horrors in which he has participated through the Vietnam War, as well as the horrors he has produced independently of the U.S. military machine. He dies a broken, conflicted, tormented man, ready to give his life away. His last moments become moments of clarity, and his tone is one of shock: while he acknowledges his actions, he is appalled by the atrocities he has committed. With these final utterances, Kurtz at last accepts the evil present in his soul and welcomes the promise of some semblance of peace in death.