Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad Essay

Heart Of Darkness By Joseph Conrad Essay

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Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness takes place in the late 19th century at the height of colonialism in Europe and tells the tale of an experienced sailor named Marlow, who is hired as a riverboat captain for a Belgian company in the Congo and is responsible for collecting ivory and transporting it back to Europe. The contemporary film adaptation of the novel, Apocalypse Now (1979), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is set during the peak of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War in 1970. Captain Willard, played by Martin Sheen, goes on a journey upriver to find and assassinate Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando, with “extreme prejudice”. Louis K. Greiff, in “Conrad’s Ethics and the Margins of Apocalypse Now,” claims that Coppola paid “meaningful homage” to Conrad by upholding the principals of Heart of Darkness (484). I don’t deny its artistic brilliance and while there are unmistakable parallels between the two works, I don’t believe Cappola’s over dramatic rendition of the novel does Conrad as much justice as Greiff claims. It tries too hard to capture the unspoken sentiments of the novel and therefore limits the overall cinematic experience.
The first part of Greiff’s criticism is called “The Doors,” in reference to the American rock band from the 60’s. The element of sound and music plays an important role throughout the movie and is made critical to the retelling of the story. The movie begins with the sound of one helicopter flying over the jungle and become layered with the song ‘The End’ by The Doors. As the music becomes louder and more helicopters fly by, the chaos and intensity of the war becomes clear. The first words of the movie, “This is the end, beautiful friend,” reference the end of the movie, in ...


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...e I was at first reluctant to believe such a claim, I soon began to see the similarities between them. Marlow’s ethics are comprised of discipline, which is shown by the Chief, and an artistic imagination, as shown by Chef the artist. When the Chief shows his genuine and sincere concern for the crew, it shows that he takes on a humanistic version of morality whereas the Chef, in his belief of the existence of souls and good v evil, takes on a spiritual approach, thereby leaving balanced characteristics of Marlow.
Apocalypse Now is known for its modern rendition of an older masterpiece and takes Conrad to mythic proportions. It shows the horror and absurdity of war and portrays the war’s damaging psychological effects it has on those affected by it. It presents to the audience, as does Heart of Darkness, the corrupted, dark, and strange life that the jungle breeds.

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