The appropriation of Heart of Darkness into Apocalypse Now

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This essay explores how popular culture texts reaffirm ideas expressed in high culture texts.

Submitted: August 19, 2008

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Submitted: August 19, 2008

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“Popular culture texts both reaffirm and challenge ideas and values expressed in high culture texts. And in the case of Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola, both composers challenged the prevailing paradigms of their societies.”
Examine these statements in relation to how values and attitudes have been communicated in the texts you have studied for this course.
Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola both challenged the prevailing paradigms of their time. Both were shedding truth on the terrible atrocities that they had observed as the eventuation of imperialistic motives. Nations with superiority of wealth and power exercised a policy very similar to invasion to “help” developing nations and their native inhabitants. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now represent the author’s and director’s opinion of their society and its government through their imaginative texts to highlight the excesses and inhumanity exercised by their society under the name of imperialism. Conrad was one of the first writers to knock white supremacy off its pedestal by criticizing British imperialism in Heart of Darkness. Francis Ford Coppola directed one of the first films to challenge the war in Vietnam and the motives of the American government in its involvement in the Vietnam War. The reasoning behind Frances Ford Coppola’s choice to appropriate his film from Conrad’s novel is quite justified. Both show that absolute corruption is partnered with absolute power. Coppola portrayed the American army as the force with absolute power with its subsequent corruption. This is in parallel with Conrad’s un-named company and the character of Kurtz who both control less powerful people. Through appropriating Conrad’s novel into a popular culture film, Coppola is agreeing with the ideas and opinions Conrad had expressed nearly a century ago. In turn, Conrad’s novel gives resonance to Coppola’s film.
Both texts are designed to shock and persuade the viewer or reader to challenge an accepted paradigm within their own society. The paradigm of both societies that are in question is of the prevalence of mainstream society to trust the government or greater power to do right by less influential people. The texts question the self-righteousness that is associated with powerful governments and people. There are parallel scenes in both texts when the “hero” or protagonist receives their orders. Both of these scenes are important to the development of the conspiracy theme and challenging the paradigm that a high power or the government is doing right by the people. The first of these two scenes is the “sepulchral city” scene in Heart of Darkness and the second is the “compound scene” in Apocalypse Now.
Joseph Conrad’s scene begins with a deserted street, “a dead silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriage archways…immense double doors, standing ponderously ajar. The sibilance evident in the text of the scene creates a wave of uneasiness which sweeps over Marlow, the “hero” of the story. The company headquarters where Marlow is on his way to are hidden in a dark back street, the uneasiness and apprehension starts to affect the reader as they travel up the winding stairs to the office of the company. This atmosphere contributes to the reader’s recognition of shadiness and dissembling associated with the company.
The army bunker that Willard (Coppola’s parallel character to Marlow) is reporting to is isolated, surrounded by razor wire and marching troops, yet there is a picnic set on a small patio out the front of the bunker. This juxtaposition contrasts ordinary peaceful life with the unnatural, harsh existence in the war. This setting highlights the absurdity of the war in Vietnam highlighting that ordinary everyday life of the United States, symbolized by the picnic setting, is incongruous with the atrocities that the war creates. The scene questions the belief that the United States government used to convince its society that it was necessary for the US involvement in the Vietnam War to defend the people of Vietnam from the Communists. As a post-war film, Apocalypse Now was challenging the strong Christian held paradigm that war was necessary to defend people against the anti-Christian Communists. Even the title reference to the “Apocalypse” is satirical as the “Apocalypse” is the name of the last book of the Bible which describes the end of the world as we know it. Coppola’s attitude is in keeping with many of the protestors to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War as he questions the right of the United States army in being in Vietnam and its responsibility to successfully protect and liberate the Vietnamese people.
The sinister nature of the powerful nation’s involvement in a less powerful nation is further explored in both texts with the biblical metaphor of the serpent or snake. This comparison highlights the increased growth of the evil nature of man as he moves further and further away from civilization. Captain Willard didn’t know where he was going but he eventually found out it was “weeks away, and hundreds of miles up a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable.” This is a modern twist on a repeated metaphor throughout “Heart of Darkness”. Since Marlow was a young child he had been transfixed by the Congo River snaking its way through Africa, He said that the snake had charmed him, this metaphor of the snake a dangerous reptile, gives warning for what is to happen on the river. The biblical association is with temptation, and it is symbolic of original sin committed by the first human beings. Its ominous connotations reoccur in both texts. The fact Willard didn’t know where he was going also gives evidence against the intrinsic belief that the higher powers are looking out for the smaller person. The American army wasn’t worried about Willard’s safety, only the completion of his assassination mission. On the river, Marlow observes the gradual breakdown of Christian morality as he moves further up river away from civilization. Conrad challenges the values and attitudes of his time in Marlow’s reflections of a Christian society which he portrays as hypocritical in its inhumane and corrupt dealings with the native inhabitants.
Conrad’s characters provide much intrigue for the reader, Conrad’s description of them evokes a sense of satire, and they are portrayed as quite obviously insane as he describes their idiosyncrasies. The Company headquarters is full of these strange people, as if the Company attracts only the weird and quirky to work for them. The first people Marlow comes into contact with are two strange frumpy women who do not speak, they sit knitting black wool, and they do not look the people they send to their fate in Africa in the eyes. They seem to Marlow that they are judging whether a person should be sent to hell and he imagines them giving the roman pre fight salutation Ave… Morituri Te salutant – Hail…Those who are about to die salute you. These women know what happens to the young men they send to Africa, they return different men, or do not return at all.
There is irony in Conrad’s description of the manager of the company, a man “with his hand on ever so many millions” Marlow, is intrigued to meet “the great man” who turns out to be five feet six in a frock coat. Then there is the little untidy doctor who is a bit too enthusiastic about measuring Marlow’s head, this seems pointless and even the doctor admits that mental changes take place inside the head, but he eventually waves Marlow off with the words, “ Keep calm, keep calm. Adieu.” Marlow leaves the office feeling very confused and cheated, he is sure he has not been properly briefed on what the company want him to do.
Like in the high cultured text of Heart of Darkness, Coppola has explored the dark nature of his society and recognized many similarities in the context of the Vietnam War. The characters in Apocalypse Now also have hyperbolic idiosyncrasies like Conrad’s characters. One of the most memorable of Coppola’s characters is the eccentric Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. With a total disregard for the lives of the people of North Vietnam, and a fondness for surfing he is portrayed as a strange twisted man. The front of his helicopter has “death from above” painted in red across the front. Kilgore loves the theatricality of battle and plays Wagner’s Rise of the Valkyries, when attacking a Vietnamese village. A similar incident is supposed to have happened during World War II when a group of German tanks played the same piece of music before launching an attack, it was Adolf Hitler’s favorite piece of music. This of course adds to the eccentricity and crazy extremity of the attack. In the film, the heightening of the scene to that of the classical satirises the cold blooded nature of the battle. The effect on the audience is to feel sickened by the actions of the war. The film questions the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War and reinforces the values and attitudes of the protestors against the war who believed it to be an unnecessary imperialist action.
Kilgore acts as though war does not affect him. When a flare is fired into his chopper he continues to drink his coffee, when on the ground, and delivering his famous “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” monologue, he does not cower or flinch like the other men do, he stays in his erect position and seems to not notice as shells explode around him, he walks around like nothing can hurt him, and Willard say, “he was one of those guys with a weird light around him. You just knew he wasn’t gonna get so much as a scratch here.”
Willard’s encounter with Kilgore left him feeling confused about why he was being sent to assassinate Kurtz. Kilgore was committing mass murder of innocent people and being praised by the army. Kurtz is accused of murdering four Vietcong, and sentenced to death. Willard realizes there must be a different reason why the CIA and the American army want Kurtz removed. This adds to the argument against the government’s motives.
In Heart of Darkness Marlow has undergone a similar inwards journey to Kurtz, through the evil of the human soul. Marlow recognizes the darkness inside himself, and tries to dissociate himself from his dark side. Conrad’s Kurtz is the darkness of the human heart personified and dies aware of the horror that his life eventuated into. Kurtz was not a naturally bad man, he had the spirit of empire building alive inside of him, and he wanted to “progress and civilize the natives”. Kurtz fascinates Marlow because he is what Marlow could easily have become if faced by the same situations. Marlow realizes how easily he or any other man could become Kurtz when moral and physical restraints are taken away, because when no one is watching, the darkness of the human heart can escape from its ever present post.
Coppola has reworked Conrad’s Kurtz character into a man portrayed as an “enlightened one”. The American army’s and the CIA’s main reason for commissioning Willard to “terminate the Colonel’s command” is that Kurtz discovered what a corrupted scam America’s involvement in Vietnam was. The American photojournalist says Kurtz “is fighting the war”, “He can be terrible, mean and he can be right”, this shows what has driven Kurtz mad is the atrocities of the war itself. Kurtz is mimicking as a cruel metaphor, America in Vietnam. Kurtz challenges the way America is fighting the war, and says that what is needed is “fewer men and better, if they were more committed the war could be won with less than a forth of the present force”.
 Kurtz  made quite an impression on the photojournalist who also describes Kurtz as being “clear in his mind, but his soul is mad”. Kurtz knows what is corrupt and what is wrong, but he allows the darkness of his own heart to escape, and affects others. He is both a murderer and an assassin, but unlike the army, Kurtz would readily admit to being both these things as nothing detests him more “than the stench of lies”. Of course the character of Kurtz is hyperbolic in both texts as he is a metaphor for the darkness of humanity. He is a metaphor for the United States involvement in the Vietnam War and an expression of popular culture criticism of its involvement.
Through showing authority figures in a horrific light, both author and director challenge the paradigm that is the most comfortable; that the people with the power, if it be the government, the army or an influential company, are looking after the people they have at their mercy. It is a paradigm that helps us feel safe and it is being challenged with authentic evidence by both Conrad and Coppola.
The major scene in Heart of Darkness that shows the impact of European colonization of Africa is the scene where Marlow walks into the “Grove of Death”. The scene shows the total disregard for the lives of the natives. The imprisoned Negros are being forced to make a tunnel through a cliff. This seems pointless and it is as if they are only doing manual work for something to do. Marlow says “the cliff wasn’t in the way or anything, but this objectless blasting was all that was going on.” The black men working at the cliff are chained together, skeletal and “the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope”. Conrad is showing what the native inhabitants of Africa have been reduced to through colonialism. Marlow also stumbles across a hole in the slope, the purpose of which he finds “impossible to divine”. He is sure it is linked to the exploitation of the workers. Being somewhat overcome by the abuse of the native people, Marlow stops in the shade where he discovers the sick and dying Negros, too weak to work, and was “horror struck” by the pathetic people that have been created by the Europeans. The Africans are being forced to do this work, “to give them something to do”, the superior generalization that the Africans need something to live for is both racist and ignorant to the values of a more enlightened society. What Conrad was concerned with was this exploitation was accepted and applied by Christian countries which he believed to be hypocritical to the values and attitudes of Christian beliefs. Conrad challenged the paradigm of the right of the imperialists to exploit others.
Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola both challenged the similar paradigms in their societies and shed light on what atrocities the government was committing under the guise of support to less developed countries. Both produced texts that were controversial but relevant to their time. Heart of Darkness being a cannon text is “timeless”. Coppola recognized values and attitudes in Heart of Darkness which very relevant his own society and was able to challenge and reaffirm their existence through the  appropriation of the novel into Apocalypse Now, a piece of popular culture, showing that paradigms in society will prevail but need to be challenged by texts relevant to the time.
“Popular culture texts both reaffirm and challenge ideas and values expressed in high culture texts. And in the case of Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola, both composers challenged the prevailing paradigms of their societies.”
Examine these statements in relation to how values and attitudes have been communicated in the texts you have studied for this course.
Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola both challenged the prevailing paradigms of their time. Both were shedding truth on the terrible atrocities that they had observed as the eventuation of imperialistic motives. Nations with superiority of wealth and power exercised a policy very similar to invasion to “help” developing nations and their native inhabitants. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now represent the author’s and director’s opinion of their society and its government through their imaginative texts to highlight the excesses and inhumanity exercised by their society under the name of imperialism. Conrad was one of the first writers to knock white supremacy off its pedestal by criticizing British imperialism in Heart of Darkness. Francis Ford Coppola directed one of the first films to challenge the war in Vietnam and the motives of the American government in its involvement in the Vietnam War. The reasoning behind Frances Ford Coppola’s choice to appropriate his film from Conrad’s novel is quite justified. Both show that absolute corruption is partnered with absolute power. Coppola portrayed the American army as the force with absolute power with its subsequent corruption. This is in parallel with Conrad’s un-named company and the character of Kurtz who both control less powerful people. Through appropriating Conrad’s novel into a popular culture film, Coppola is agreeing with the ideas and opinions Conrad had expressed nearly a century ago. In turn, Conrad’s novel gives resonance to Coppola’s film.
Both texts are designed to shock and persuade the viewer or reader to challenge an accepted paradigm within their own society. The paradigm of both societies that are in question is of the prevalence of mainstream society to trust the government or greater power to do right by less influential people. The texts question the self-righteousness that is associated with powerful governments and people. There are parallel scenes in both texts when the “hero” or protagonist receives their orders. Both of these scenes are important to the development of the conspiracy theme and challenging the paradigm that a high power or the government is doing right by the people. The first of these two scenes is the “sepulchral city” scene in Heart of Darkness and the second is the “compound scene” in Apocalypse Now.
Joseph Conrad’s scene begins with a deserted street, “a dead silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriage archways…immense double doors, standing ponderously ajar. The sibilance evident in the text of the scene creates a wave of uneasiness which sweeps over Marlow, the “hero” of the story. The company headquarters where Marlow is on his way to are hidden in a dark back street, the uneasiness and apprehension starts to affect the reader as they travel up the winding stairs to the office of the company. This atmosphere contributes to the reader’s recognition of shadiness and dissembling associated with the company.
The army bunker that Willard (Coppola’s parallel character to Marlow) is reporting to is isolated, surrounded by razor wire and marching troops, yet there is a picnic set on a small patio out the front of the bunker. This juxtaposition contrasts ordinary peaceful life with the unnatural, harsh existence in the war. This setting highlights the absurdity of the war in Vietnam highlighting that ordinary everyday life of the United States, symbolized by the picnic setting, is incongruous with the atrocities that the war creates. The scene questions the belief that the United States government used to convince its society that it was necessary for the US involvement in the Vietnam War to defend the people of Vietnam from the Communists. As a post-war film, Apocalypse Now was challenging the strong Christian held paradigm that war was necessary to defend people against the anti-Christian Communists. Even the title reference to the “Apocalypse” is satirical as the “Apocalypse” is the name of the last book of the Bible which describes the end of the world as we know it. Coppola’s attitude is in keeping with many of the protestors to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War as he questions the right of the United States army in being in Vietnam and its responsibility to successfully protect and liberate the Vietnamese people.
The sinister nature of the powerful nation’s involvement in a less powerful nation is further explored in both texts with the biblical metaphor of the serpent or snake. This comparison highlights the increased growth of the evil nature of man as he moves further and further away from civilization. Captain Willard didn’t know where he was going but he eventually found out it was “weeks away, and hundreds of miles up a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable.” This is a modern twist on a repeated metaphor throughout “Heart of Darkness”. Since Marlow was a young child he had been transfixed by the Congo River snaking its way through Africa, He said that the snake had charmed him, this metaphor of the snake a dangerous reptile, gives warning for what is to happen on the river. The biblical association is with temptation, and it is symbolic of original sin committed by the first human beings. Its ominous connotations reoccur in both texts. The fact Willard didn’t know where he was going also gives evidence against the intrinsic belief that the higher powers are looking out for the smaller person. The American army wasn’t worried about Willard’s safety, only the completion of his assassination mission. On the river, Marlow observes the gradual breakdown of Christian morality as he moves further up river away from civilization. Conrad challenges the values and attitudes of his time in Marlow’s reflections of a Christian society which he portrays as hypocritical in its inhumane and corrupt dealings with the native inhabitants.
Conrad’s characters provide much intrigue for the reader, Conrad’s description of them evokes a sense of satire, and they are portrayed as quite obviously insane as he describes their idiosyncrasies. The Company headquarters is full of these strange people, as if the Company attracts only the weird and quirky to work for them. The first people Marlow comes into contact with are two strange frumpy women who do not speak, they sit knitting black wool, and they do not look the people they send to their fate in Africa in the eyes. They seem to Marlow that they are judging whether a person should be sent to hell and he imagines them giving the roman pre fight salutation Ave… Morituri Te salutant – Hail…Those who are about to die salute you. These women know what happens to the young men they send to Africa, they return different men, or do not return at all.
There is irony in Conrad’s description of the manager of the company, a man “with his hand on ever so many millions” Marlow, is intrigued to meet “the great man” who turns out to be five feet six in a frock coat. Then there is the little untidy doctor who is a bit too enthusiastic about measuring Marlow’s head, this seems pointless and even the doctor admits that mental changes take place inside the head, but he eventually waves Marlow off with the words, “ Keep calm, keep calm. Adieu.” Marlow leaves the office feeling very confused and cheated, he is sure he has not been properly briefed on what the company want him to do.
Like in the high cultured text of Heart of Darkness, Coppola has explored the dark nature of his society and recognized many similarities in the context of the Vietnam War. The characters in Apocalypse Now also have hyperbolic idiosyncrasies like Conrad’s characters. One of the most memorable of Coppola’s characters is the eccentric Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. With a total disregard for the lives of the people of North Vietnam, and a fondness for surfing he is portrayed as a strange twisted man. The front of his helicopter has “death from above” painted in red across the front. Kilgore loves the theatricality of battle and plays Wagner’s Rise of the Valkyries, when attacking a Vietnamese village. A similar incident is supposed to have happened during World War II when a group of German tanks played the same piece of music before launching an attack, it was Adolf Hitler’s favorite piece of music. This of course adds to the eccentricity and crazy extremity of the attack. In the film, the heightening of the scene to that of the classical satirises the cold blooded nature of the battle. The effect on the audience is to feel sickened by the actions of the war. The film questions the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War and reinforces the values and attitudes of the protestors against the war who believed it to be an unnecessary imperialist action.
Kilgore acts as though war does not affect him. When a flare is fired into his chopper he continues to drink his coffee, when on the ground, and delivering his famous “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” monologue, he does not cower or flinch like the other men do, he stays in his erect position and seems to not notice as shells explode around him, he walks around like nothing can hurt him, and Willard say, “he was one of those guys with a weird light around him. You just knew he wasn’t gonna get so much as a scratch here.”
Willard’s encounter with Kilgore left him feeling confused about why he was being sent to assassinate Kurtz. Kilgore was committing mass murder of innocent people and being praised by the army. Kurtz is accused of murdering four Vietcong, and sentenced to death. Willard realizes there must be a different reason why the CIA and the American army want Kurtz removed. This adds to the argument against the government’s motives.
In Heart of Darkness Marlow has undergone a similar inwards journey to Kurtz, through the evil of the human soul. Marlow recognizes the darkness inside himself, and tries to dissociate himself from his dark side. Conrad’s Kurtz is the darkness of the human heart personified and dies aware of the horror that his life eventuated into. Kurtz was not a naturally bad man, he had the spirit of empire building alive inside of him, and he wanted to “progress and civilize the natives”. Kurtz fascinates Marlow because he is what Marlow could easily have become if faced by the same situations. Marlow realizes how easily he or any other man could become Kurtz when moral and physical restraints are taken away, because when no one is watching, the darkness of the human heart can escape from its ever present post.
Coppola has reworked Conrad’s Kurtz character into a man portrayed as an “enlightened one”. The American army’s and the CIA’s main reason for commissioning Willard to “terminate the Colonel’s command” is that Kurtz discovered what a corrupted scam America’s involvement in Vietnam was. The American photojournalist says Kurtz “is fighting the war”, “He can be terrible, mean and he can be right”, this shows what has driven Kurtz mad is the atrocities of the war itself. Kurtz is mimicking as a cruel metaphor, America in Vietnam. Kurtz challenges the way America is fighting the war, and says that what is needed is “fewer men and better, if they were more committed the war could be won with less than a forth of the present force”.
 Kurtz  made quite an impression on the photojournalist who also describes Kurtz as being “clear in his mind, but his soul is mad”. Kurtz knows what is corrupt and what is wrong, but he allows the darkness of his own heart to escape, and affects others. He is both a murderer and an assassin, but unlike the army, Kurtz would readily admit to being both these things as nothing detests him more “than the stench of lies”. Of course the character of Kurtz is hyperbolic in both texts as he is a metaphor for the darkness of humanity. He is a metaphor for the United States involvement in the Vietnam War and an expression of popular culture criticism of its involvement.
Through showing authority figures in a horrific light, both author and director challenge the paradigm that is the most comfortable; that the people with the power, if it be the government, the army or an influential company, are looking after the people they have at their mercy. It is a paradigm that helps us feel safe and it is being challenged with authentic evidence by both Conrad and Coppola.
The major scene in Heart of Darkness that shows the impact of European colonization of Africa is the scene where Marlow walks into the “Grove of Death”. The scene shows the total disregard for the lives of the natives. The imprisoned Negros are being forced to make a tunnel through a cliff. This seems pointless and it is as if they are only doing manual work for something to do. Marlow says “the cliff wasn’t in the way or anything, but this objectless blasting was all that was going on.” The black men working at the cliff are chained together, skeletal and “the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope”. Conrad is showing what the native inhabitants of Africa have been reduced to through colonialism. Marlow also stumbles across a hole in the slope, the purpose of which he finds “impossible to divine”. He is sure it is linked to the exploitation of the workers. Being somewhat overcome by the abuse of the native people, Marlow stops in the shade where he discovers the sick and dying Negros, too weak to work, and was “horror struck” by the pathetic people that have been created by the Europeans. The Africans are being forced to do this work, “to give them something to do”, the superior generalization that the Africans need something to live for is both racist and ignorant to the values of a more enlightened society. What Conrad was concerned with was this exploitation was accepted and applied by Christian countries which he believed to be hypocritical to the values and attitudes of Christian beliefs. Conrad challenged the paradigm of the right of the imperialists to exploit others.
Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola both challenged the similar paradigms in their societies and shed light on what atrocities the government was committing under the guise of support to less developed countries. Both produced texts that were controversial but relevant to their time. Heart of Darkness being a cannon text is “timeless”. Coppola recognized values and attitudes in Heart of Darkness which very relevant his own society and was able to challenge and reaffirm their existence through the  appropriation of the novel into Apocalypse Now, a piece of popular culture, showing that paradigms in society will prevail but need to be challenged by texts relevant to the time.
“Popular culture texts both reaffirm and challenge ideas and values expressed in high culture texts. And in the case of Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola, both composers challenged the prevailing paradigms of their societies.”
Examine these statements in relation to how values and attitudes have been communicated in the texts you have studied for this course.
Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola both challenged the prevailing paradigms of their time. Both were shedding truth on the terrible atrocities that they had observed as the eventuation of imperialistic motives. Nations with superiority of wealth and power exercised a policy very similar to invasion to “help” developing nations and their native inhabitants. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now represent the author’s and director’s opinion of their society and its government through their imaginative texts to highlight the excesses and inhumanity exercised by their society under the name of imperialism. Conrad was one of the first writers to knock white supremacy off its pedestal by criticizing British imperialism in Heart of Darkness. Francis Ford Coppola directed one of the first films to challenge the war in Vietnam and the motives of the American government in its involvement in the Vietnam War. The reasoning behind Frances Ford Coppola’s choice to appropriate his film from Conrad’s novel is quite justified. Both show that absolute corruption is partnered with absolute power. Coppola portrayed the American army as the force with absolute power with its subsequent corruption. This is in parallel with Conrad’s un-named company and the character of Kurtz who both control less powerful people. Through appropriating Conrad’s novel into a popular culture film, Coppola is agreeing with the ideas and opinions Conrad had expressed nearly a century ago. In turn, Conrad’s novel gives resonance to Coppola’s film.
Both texts are designed to shock and persuade the viewer or reader to challenge an accepted paradigm within their own society. The paradigm of both societies that are in question is of the prevalence of mainstream society to trust the government or greater power to do right by less influential people. The texts question the self-righteousness that is associated with powerful governments and people. There are parallel scenes in both texts when the “hero” or protagonist receives their orders. Both of these scenes are important to the development of the conspiracy theme and challenging the paradigm that a high power or the government is doing right by the people. The first of these two scenes is the “sepulchral city” scene in Heart of Darkness and the second is the “compound scene” in Apocalypse Now.
Joseph Conrad’s scene begins with a deserted street, “a dead silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriage archways…immense double doors, standing ponderously ajar. The sibilance evident in the text of the scene creates a wave of uneasiness which sweeps over Marlow, the “hero” of the story. The company headquarters where Marlow is on his way to are hidden in a dark back street, the uneasiness and apprehension starts to affect the reader as they travel up the winding stairs to the office of the company. This atmosphere contributes to the reader’s recognition of shadiness and dissembling associated with the company.
The army bunker that Willard (Coppola’s parallel character to Marlow) is reporting to is isolated, surrounded by razor wire and marching troops, yet there is a picnic set on a small patio out the front of the bunker. This juxtaposition contrasts ordinary peaceful life with the unnatural, harsh existence in the war. This setting highlights the absurdity of the war in Vietnam highlighting that ordinary everyday life of the United States, symbolized by the picnic setting, is incongruous with the atrocities that the war creates. The scene questions the belief that the United States government used to convince its society that it was necessary for the US involvement in the Vietnam War to defend the people of Vietnam from the Communists. As a post-war film, Apocalypse Now was challenging the strong Christian held paradigm that war was necessary to defend people against the anti-Christian Communists. Even the title reference to the “Apocalypse” is satirical as the “Apocalypse” is the name of the last book of the Bible which describes the end of the world as we know it. Coppola’s attitude is in keeping with many of the protestors to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War as he questions the right of the United States army in being in Vietnam and its responsibility to successfully protect and liberate the Vietnamese people.
The sinister nature of the powerful nation’s involvement in a less powerful nation is further explored in both texts with the biblical metaphor of the serpent or snake. This comparison highlights the increased growth of the evil nature of man as he moves further and further away from civilization. Captain Willard didn’t know where he was going but he eventually found out it was “weeks away, and hundreds of miles up a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable.” This is a modern twist on a repeated metaphor throughout “Heart of Darkness”. Since Marlow was a young child he had been transfixed by the Congo River snaking its way through Africa, He said that the snake had charmed him, this metaphor of the snake a dangerous reptile, gives warning for what is to happen on the river. The biblical association is with temptation, and it is symbolic of original sin committed by the first human beings. Its ominous connotations reoccur in both texts. The fact Willard didn’t know where he was going also gives evidence against the intrinsic belief that the higher powers are looking out for the smaller person. The American army wasn’t worried about Willard’s safety, only the completion of his assassination mission. On the river, Marlow observes the gradual breakdown of Christian morality as he moves further up river away from civilization. Conrad challenges the values and attitudes of his time in Marlow’s reflections of a Christian society which he portrays as hypocritical in its inhumane and corrupt dealings with the native inhabitants.
Conrad’s characters provide much intrigue for the reader, Conrad’s description of them evokes a sense of satire, and they are portrayed as quite obviously insane as he describes their idiosyncrasies. The Company headquarters is full of these strange people, as if the Company attracts only the weird and quirky to work for them. The first people Marlow comes into contact with are two strange frumpy women who do not speak, they sit knitting black wool, and they do not look the people they send to their fate in Africa in the eyes. They seem to Marlow that they are judging whether a person should be sent to hell and he imagines them giving the roman pre fight salutation Ave… Morituri Te salutant – Hail…Those who are about to die salute you. These women know what happens to the young men they send to Africa, they return different men, or do not return at all.
There is irony in Conrad’s description of the manager of the company, a man “with his hand on ever so many millions” Marlow, is intrigued to meet “the great man” who turns out to be five feet six in a frock coat. Then there is the little untidy doctor who is a bit too enthusiastic about measuring Marlow’s head, this seems pointless and even the doctor admits that mental changes take place inside the head, but he eventually waves Marlow off with the words, “ Keep calm, keep calm. Adieu.” Marlow leaves the office feeling very confused and cheated, he is sure he has not been properly briefed on what the company want him to do.
Like in the high cultured text of Heart of Darkness, Coppola has explored the dark nature of his society and recognized many similarities in the context of the Vietnam War. The characters in Apocalypse Now also have hyperbolic idiosyncrasies like Conrad’s characters. One of the most memorable of Coppola’s characters is the eccentric Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. With a total disregard for the lives of the people of North Vietnam, and a fondness for surfing he is portrayed as a strange twisted man. The front of his helicopter has “death from above” painted in red across the front. Kilgore loves the theatricality of battle and plays Wagner’s Rise of the Valkyries, when attacking a Vietnamese village. A similar incident is supposed to have happened during World War II when a group of German tanks played the same piece of music before launching an attack, it was Adolf Hitler’s favorite piece of music. This of course adds to the eccentricity and crazy extremity of the attack. In the film, the heightening of the scene to that of the classical satirises the cold blooded nature of the battle. The effect on the audience is to feel sickened by the actions of the war. The film questions the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War and reinforces the values and attitudes of the protestors against the war who believed it to be an unnecessary imperialist action.
Kilgore acts as though war does not affect him. When a flare is fired into his chopper he continues to drink his coffee, when on the ground, and delivering his famous “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” monologue, he does not cower or flinch like the other men do, he stays in his erect position and seems to not notice as shells explode around him, he walks around like nothing can hurt him, and Willard say, “he was one of those guys with a weird light around him. You just knew he wasn’t gonna get so much as a scratch here.”
Willard’s encounter with Kilgore left him feeling confused about why he was being sent to assassinate Kurtz. Kilgore was committing mass murder of innocent people and being praised by the army. Kurtz is accused of murdering four Vietcong, and sentenced to death. Willard realizes there must be a different reason why the CIA and the American army want Kurtz removed. This adds to the argument against the government’s motives.
In Heart of Darkness Marlow has undergone a similar inwards journey to Kurtz, through the evil of the human soul. Marlow recognizes the darkness inside himself, and tries to dissociate himself from his dark side. Conrad’s Kurtz is the darkness of the human heart personified and dies aware of the horror that his life eventuated into. Kurtz was not a naturally bad man, he had the spirit of empire building alive inside of him, and he wanted to “progress and civilize the natives”. Kurtz fascinates Marlow because he is what Marlow could easily have become if faced by the same situations. Marlow realizes how easily he or any other man could become Kurtz when moral and physical restraints are taken away, because when no one is watching, the darkness of the human heart can escape from its ever present post.
Coppola has reworked Conrad’s Kurtz character into a man portrayed as an “enlightened one”. The American army’s and the CIA’s main reason for commissioning Willard to “terminate the Colonel’s command” is that Kurtz discovered what a corrupted scam America’s involvement in Vietnam was. The American photojournalist says Kurtz “is fighting the war”, “He can be terrible, mean and he can be right”, this shows what has driven Kurtz mad is the atrocities of the war itself. Kurtz is mimicking as a cruel metaphor, America in Vietnam. Kurtz challenges the way America is fighting the war, and says that what is needed is “fewer men and better, if they were more committed the war could be won with less than a forth of the present force”.
 Kurtz  made quite an impression on the photojournalist who also describes Kurtz as being “clear in his mind, but his soul is mad”. Kurtz knows what is corrupt and what is wrong, but he allows the darkness of his own heart to escape, and affects others. He is both a murderer and an assassin, but unlike the army, Kurtz would readily admit to being both these things as nothing detests him more “than the stench of lies”. Of course the character of Kurtz is hyperbolic in both texts as he is a metaphor for the darkness of humanity. He is a metaphor for the United States involvement in the Vietnam War and an expression of popular culture criticism of its involvement.
Through showing authority figures in a horrific light, both author and director challenge the paradigm that is the most comfortable; that the people with the power, if it be the government, the army or an influential company, are looking after the people they have at their mercy. It is a paradigm that helps us feel safe and it is being challenged with authentic evidence by both Conrad and Coppola.
The major scene in Heart of Darkness that shows the impact of European colonization of Africa is the scene where Marlow walks into the “Grove of Death”. The scene shows the total disregard for the lives of the natives. The imprisoned Negros are being forced to make a tunnel through a cliff. This seems pointless and it is as if they are only doing manual work for something to do. Marlow says “the cliff wasn’t in the way or anything, but this objectless blasting was all that was going on.” The black men working at the cliff are chained together, skeletal and “the joints of their limbs were like knots in a rope”. Conrad is showing what the native inhabitants of Africa have been reduced to through colonialism. Marlow also stumbles across a hole in the slope, the purpose of which he finds “impossible to divine”. He is sure it is linked to the exploitation of the workers. Being somewhat overcome by the abuse of the native people, Marlow stops in the shade where he discovers the sick and dying Negros, too weak to work, and was “horror struck” by the pathetic people that have been created by the Europeans. The Africans are being forced to do this work, “to give them something to do”, the superior generalization that the Africans need something to live for is both racist and ignorant to the values of a more enlightened society. What Conrad was concerned with was this exploitation was accepted and applied by Christian countries which he believed to be hypocritical to the values and attitudes of Christian beliefs. Conrad challenged the paradigm of the right of the imperialists to exploit others.
Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola both challenged the similar paradigms in their societies and shed light on what atrocities the government was committing under the guise of support to less developed countries. Both produced texts that were controversial but relevant to their time. Heart of Darkness being a cannon text is “timeless”. Coppola recognized values and attitudes in Heart of Darkness which very relevant his own society and was able to challenge and reaffirm their existence through the  appropriation of the novel into Apocalypse Now, a piece of popular culture, showing that paradigms in society will prevail but need to be challenged by texts relevant to the time.
“Popular culture texts both reaffirm and challenge ideas and values expressed in high culture texts. And in the case of Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola, both composers challenged the prevailing paradigms of their societies.”
Examine these statements in relation to how values and attitudes have been communicated in the texts you have studied for this course.
Joseph Conrad and Francis Ford Coppola both challenged the prevailing paradigms of their time. Both were shedding truth on the terrible atrocities that they had observed as the eventuation of imperialistic motives. Nations with superiority of wealth and power exercised a policy very similar to invasion to “help” developing nations and their native inhabitants. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now represent the author’s and director’s opinion of their society and its government through their imaginative texts to highlight the excesses and inhumanity exercised by their society under the name of imperialism. Conrad was one of the first writers to knock white supremacy off its pedestal by criticizing British imperialism in Heart of Darkness. Francis Ford Coppola directed one of the first films to challenge the war in Vietnam and the motives of the American government in its involvement in the Vietnam War. The reasoning behind Frances Ford Coppola’s choice to appropriate his film from Conrad’s novel is quite justified. Both show that absolute corruption is partnered with absolute power. Coppola portrayed the American army as the force with absolute power with its subsequent corruption. This is in parallel with Conrad’s un-named company and the character of Kurtz who both control less powerful people. Through appropriating Conrad’s novel into a popular culture film, Coppola is agreeing with the ideas and opinions Conrad had expressed nearly a century ago. In turn, Conrad’s novel gives resonance to Coppola’s film.
Both texts are designed to shock and persuade the viewer or reader to challenge an accepted paradigm within their own society. The paradigm of both societies that are in question is of the prevalence of mainstream society to trust the government or greater power to do right by less influential people. The texts question the self-righteousness that is associated with powerful governments and people. There are parallel scenes in both texts when the “hero” or protagonist receives their orders. Both of these scenes are important to the development of the conspiracy theme and challenging the paradigm that a high power or the government is doing right by the people. The first of these two scenes is the “sepulchral city” scene in Heart of Darkness and the second is the “compound scene” in Apocalypse Now.
Joseph Conrad’s scene begins with a deserted street, “a dead silence, grass sprouting between the stones, imposing carriage archways…immense double doors, standing ponderously ajar. The sibilance evident in the text of the scene creates a wave of uneasiness which sweeps over Marlow, the “hero” of the story. The company headquarters where Marlow is on his way to are hidden in a dark back street, the uneasiness and apprehension starts to affect the reader as they travel up the winding stairs to the office of the company. This atmosphere contributes to the reader’s recognition of shadiness and dissembling associated with the company.
The army bunker that Willard (Coppola’s parallel character to Marlow) is reporting to is isolated, surrounded by razor wire and marching troops, yet there is a picnic set on a small patio out the front of the bunker. This juxtaposition contrasts ordinary peaceful life with the unnatural, harsh existence in the war. This setting highlights the absurdity of the war in Vietnam highlighting that ordinary everyday life of the United States, symbolized by the picnic setting, is incongruous with the atrocities that the war creates. The scene questions the belief that the United States government used to convince its society that it was necessary for the US involvement in the Vietnam War to defend the people of Vietnam from the Communists. As a post-war film, Apocalypse Now was challenging the strong Christian held paradigm that war was necessary to defend people against the anti-Christian Communists. Even the title reference to the “Apocalypse” is satirical as the “Apocalypse” is the name of the last book of the Bible which describes the end of the world as we know it. Coppola’s attitude is in keeping with many of the protestors to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War as he questions the right of the United States army in being in Vietnam and its responsibility to successfully protect and liberate the Vietnamese people.
The sinister nature of the powerful nation’s involvement in a less powerful nation is further explored in both texts with the biblical metaphor of the serpent or snake. This comparison highlights the increased growth of the evil nature of man as he moves further and further away from civilization. Captain Willard didn’t know where he was going but he eventually found out it was “weeks away, and hundreds of miles up a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable.” This is a modern twist on a repeated metaphor throughout “Heart of Darkness”. Since Marlow was a young child he had been transfixed by the Congo River snaking its way through Africa, He said that the snake had charmed him, this metaphor of the snake a dangerous reptile, gives warning for what is to happen on the river. The biblical association is with temptation, and it is symbolic of original sin committed by the first human beings. Its ominous connotations reoccur in both texts. The fact Willard didn’t know where he was going also gives evidence against the intrinsic belief that the higher powers are looking out for the smaller person. The American army wasn’t worried about Willard’s safety, only the completion of his assassination mission. On the river, Marlow observes the gradual breakdown of Christian morality as he moves further up river away from civilization. Conrad challenges the values and attitudes of his time in Marlow’s reflections of a Christian society which he portrays as hypocritical in its inhumane and corrupt dealings with the native inhabitants.
Conrad’s characters provide much intrigue for the reader, Conrad’s description of them evokes a sense of satire, and they are portrayed as quite obviously insane as he describes their idiosyncrasies. The Company headquarters is full of these strange people, as if the Company attracts only the weird and quirky to work for them. The first people Marlow comes into contact with are two strange frumpy women who do not speak, they sit knitting black wool, and they do not look the people they send to their fate in Africa in the eyes. They seem to Marlow that they are judging whether a person should be sent to hell and he imagines them giving the roman pre fight salutation Ave… Morituri Te salutant – Hail…Those who are about to die salute you. These women know what happens to the young men they send to Africa, they return different men, or do not return at all.
There is irony in Conrad’s description of the manager of the company, a man “with his hand on ever so many millions” Marlow, is intrigued to meet “the great man” who turns out to be five feet six in a frock coat. Then there is the little untidy doctor who is a bit too enthusiastic about measuring Marlow’s head, this seems pointless and even the doctor admits that mental changes take place inside the head, but he eventually waves Marlow off with the words, “ Keep calm, keep calm. Adieu.” Marlow leaves the office feeling very confused and cheated, he is sure he has not been properly briefed on what the company want him to do.
Like in the high cultured text of Heart of Darkness, Coppola has explored the dark nature of his society and recognized many similarities in the context of the Vietnam War. The characters in Apocalypse Now also have hyperbolic idiosyncrasies like Conrad’s characters. One of the most memorable of Coppola’s characters is the eccentric Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. With a total disregard for the lives of the people of North Vietnam, and a fondness for surfing he is portrayed as a strange twisted man. The front of his helicopter has “death from above” painted in red across the front. Kilgore loves the theatricality of battle and plays Wagner’s Rise of the Valkyries, when attacking a Vietnamese village. A similar incident is supposed to have happened during World War II when a group of German tanks played the same piece of music before launching an attack, it was Adolf Hitler’s favorite piece of music. This of course adds to the eccentricity and crazy extremity of the attack. In the film, the heightening of the scene to that of the classical satirises the cold blooded nature of the battle. The effect on the audience is to feel sickened by the actions of the war. The film questions the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War and reinforces the values and attitudes of the protestors against the war who believed it to be an unnecessary imperialist action.
Kilgore acts as though war does not affect him. When a flare is fired into his chopper he continues to drink his coffee, when on the ground, and delivering his famous “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” monologue, he does not cower or flinch like the other men do, he stays in his erect position and seems to not notice as shells explode around him, he walks around like nothing can hurt him, and Willard say, “he was one of those guys with a weird light around him. You just knew he wasn’t gonna get so much as a scratch here.”
Willard’s encounter with Kilgore left him feeling confused about why he was being sent to assassinate Kurtz. Kilgore was committing mass murder of innocent people and being praised by the army. Kurtz is accused of murdering four Vietcong, and sentenced to death. Willard realizes there must be a different reason why the CIA and the American army want Kurtz removed. This adds to the argument against the government’s motives.
In Heart of Darkness Marlow has undergone a similar inwards journey to Kurtz, through the evil of the human soul. Marlow recognizes the darkness inside himself, and tries to dissociate himself from his dark side. Conrad’s Kurtz is the darkness of the human heart personified and dies aware of the horror that his life eventuated into. Kurtz was not a naturally bad man, he had the spirit of empire building alive inside of him, and he wanted to “progress and civilize the natives”. Kurtz fascinates Marlow because he is what Marlow could easily have become if faced by the same situations. Marlow realizes how easily he or any other man could become Kurtz when moral and physical restraints are taken away, because when no one


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