Heart of Darkness

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To what extent does cultural context influence the nature of adaptation from text to big screen?

To an extent, cultural context plays an integral role in the process of adaptation from text to film. It greatly influences our perception of the film, as the audience can relate their surroundings to the movie. In the case of Apocalypse Now, the prominent issue was the cold war. However, besides cultural context, other factors also influence the nature of adaptation. It’s incontrovertible whether all aspects of the text can be adapted to the film, as something that might be fascinating in the text may not evoke the same feeling when viewed on big screen. The judgment of the director comes into play in these situations, as he must distinguish which parts of the text are coherent in his adaptation of the novella and the audience’s reaction to it.

Coppola chose to retain the main themes of Heart of Darkness. The criticizing and mocking of imperialism was a prevalent theme that surfaced throughout Apocalypse Now. For instance in Heart of darkness, Marlow exemplifies the basis of imperialism.

"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much.” (Conrad, p7)

An analogous approach is taken in Apocalypse Now, when Kurtz talks to Willard:

“Men who are moral and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment” (Coppola, 02:13:30)

By giving this dialogue to Kurtz, Coppola mocks the army and the soldiers. The irony is evident in this quotation as men with morals don’t kill, much less, kill with passion and without hesitation. Coppola has substituted military and war with colonialism in the text, as the issue of colonialism was to a certain level, obsolete. The cold war was the prominent issue in that time period, and adapting



Bibliography: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Apocalypse Now 1979 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/apocolypse.html MLA format: Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness, Norton 4th edition, 2005

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