Friday, September 19, 2008

Filmic Conventions and Literary Adaptation

Please take a look online for some information about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  Based on the information (whether it concerns plot, author biography, or critical interpretation) you learned, what intersections between Conrad's story and the segment of the film story Apocalypse Now that you watched in class today are of greatest interest to you?  Why?  Why do you think Coppola would reinvent Conrad's classic story (indeed, an allegorical story) in the way that he did on film?  How does the film tell its story?  What are the important differences between filmic strategies and textual ones?  You might also want to address text, metatext, and subtext in your post. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

15 comments:

sdenaple said...

Though each takes place in different times and settings, Coppola's Apocalypse Now can be said to be loosely based off of Conrad's Heart of Darkness because both explore how man's encounters with war/imperialism can bring out the darkness, the fear, and the very worst parts of himself. I found the parallels between use of setting to convey the theme most interesting. Unable to actually show readers, Conrad is forced to paint a picture of the scene that suggests darkness, confusion, and moral ambiguity. Coppala is unable to tell us how the setting should make us feel, so with limited dialogue, the use of high contrast of light and color, the use of camera positioning and movement, he tells us the same story as Conrad. For example, the opening shots of the scene we watched use the dark shadows of the soldiers walking with a bright yellow sky behind them suggesting a contrast between good and bad.

Joe said...

Throughout the summary I read the story seems to have a lot of illness and disease in it. Perhaps, not a main feature, but a characteristic of the book. Throughout the main character's journey he notes that there seem to be a lot of crazy people around him as well as a lot of diseased, sick, and dying. Perhaps, through Coppola's filmic strategy of recreating a literary world he used this theme to help tie back to the book. The talent with remaking a book as a movie lies with how far can you stretch the book's ideas. A director must balance how the masses sees and relates to it with how the story actually goes. In our section of what we saw the commander may very well be a personification of the insane while the men lying on the ground wounded, like the diseased and ill. By placing the story in Vietnam all Coppola is attempting to do is make the plot seem real to the general public, more so than if it was placed somewhere where most people have never seen pictures of, unlike Vietnam and the war.

spurs_rh said...

Heart of Darkness is, at its most basic, a narrative about a corrupt, power-driven commander told from the eyes of a fellow officer; the clip of Apocalypse Now revealed the same focus. Also, Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now share the harsh criticism of imperialism and needless violence. Heart of Darkness has layers and layers of meaning packed into every sentence; it is a very dualistic novel: dark/light, good/evil, and savage/civilized. I have not seen all of Apocalypse Now, but from the segment we watched the movie also seems filled with deep meanings revealed through the visual clues of lighting, camera angle, and shot selection.
-Danielle Chavez-Davis

aunorsjet said...

I believe the main reason Coppola based his movie, Apocalypse Now, on Conrad's Heart of Darkness was that Coppola saw Conrad's themes as valid in any time period. Conrad emphasized in The Heart of Darkness that things aren't always as they seem when it comes to what could be called "text-book good and evil." In the story, the Africans living in the "heart of darkness" are seen as savage- a group that needs to be tamed and civilized by Western society. When Marlow finally arrives in the Belgium Congo (and after a long boat ride into the interior), he sees Mr. Kurtz, the man who was supposedly fighting the good fight and westernizing the natives. This image of a European hero fades, however, when Marlow discovers that Kurtz is vastly more corrupt and savage than the natives. The imperialist system wasn't working because no one was able to keep tabs on what Kurtz was doing. This might be a weak connection to the movie (which I have not seen), but in the same way that Kurtz was doing whatever he liked, the commanding officer in the movie finishes off the enemy forces quickly with napalm and is eager to go surfing. The ridiculousness of the war in the movie could correspond to the lack of discipline in the Congo in Conrad's novel. Just a thought.

-Aaron Bentley

hmmalbq said...

Filmic strategies and textual strategies overlap; however, the main differences are where stress is placed in the story. For instance, in written works the setting and feel of the story must be evoked purely by words. In film the director forgoes words for tangible settings and lighting effects. The end result is the same of setting up the story, but the two mediums use different methods of getting there. In addition, the visual shots of characters and setting are able to illustrate deeper characteristics and moods shown, such as high camera angles to make the character seem insignificant or lost. Text weaves these images in the reader's head, but it is up to the director to develop those images in film.

Interestingly, the recent adaptaion of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was filmed in Victorian era England, rather than Ancient Greece. Though the words remained unchanged in the film versus play, the setting change made it more comprehendable to the modern audiences. This and other changes made from text to film allow for the story to be retold from the author's vision of the story... whether or not it shares the same vision as the original author intended.

lupine-lunacy said...

Flying over people's houses and blowing anything even halfway suspicious effectively shows the dark side of humanity just as the assorted occurrences in Conrad's story did. By simply showing the bad side of human nature, an audience can take a lesson in how not to be be. Coppola must have aimed to adapt the story to a time and place that most American audiences could easily imagine and relate to. The film tells it's story by replacing several characters with American soldiers and adapting the technology and themes to a more modern version. Filmic strategies are a conjunction between music, camera angles, acting, filters, visuals, and words while textual ones deal mainly with words, word choice, and sentence structure. Implied and underlying meanings need to be made, more often than not, more obvious on film than in books.

FTATB11305 said...

I think that both works are examples of the glorification of war. The stories show the good and bad in war and leave it up to the reader/watcher to come up with their belief as to whether the war/fighting is justified. I think Apocalypse Now used the Vietnam war as a way to show people how it was perceived by the military personnel. I think war books can be made into movies quite easily due to their somewhat unknown audience and reference.

- Edward Acree

rmurray said...

Both Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now follow the same plot: an agent is sent into the field to work with the natives, then another agent is sent to take out the original due to "corruption". I see some major similarities between Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now not only in text but also metatext. In each story the imperialists were willing to slaughter the natives and use nearly any techniques to dominate the area. However, once one of their own became more effective at winning the war/gathering ivory, the imperialists decided to get rid of them.

I think both stories are excellent commentaries on the war machines of their time. The Belgians were willing to kill Africans and plunder their land in search of ivory, but only with machine guns. Allying with natives and gatherine ivory with more traditional methods was cause for termination. In Vietnam, the Americans were willing to exterminate the natives to promote a more Western style of life, but only with helicopters and napalm. When Kurtz's native's spears and darts were more effective at eliminating VC, his commanders ordered him killed. Both were excellent tales of the darkness of war and domination, contrasted greatly with attempts to remain civilized.

-Roy Murray

Moridin said...

I noticed that in both works, there is a total disregard for human life. One of the main characters in Heart of Darkness, Kurtz, uses smooth speech and superior weaponry to manipulate several African tribes. He then orders the people he intimidated to war with other tribes for their ivory.

In a similar manner, the CO in Apocalypse Now orders his helicopters to destroy anything remotely threatening, regardless of who or what is in the line of fire. Instead of feeling remorse for issuing such an order, the CO is excited by the prospect of violence and destruction. I think Conrad and Coppola effectively show how humans seem to go out of their way to harm each other.

mweggel said...

both show how war can bring out the worst in people. it can turn a person in to the most ruthless being they can be, no remorse for human life. it shows the reader/viewer both sides of war making the audience come up with their own conclusion perspective on the war or conflict.

FourStarGen118 said...

Although both Heart of Darkness and the scene from Apocalypse Now that we saw in class portray the ugliness and reality of war, they do it in different ways. Words allow the author to provide vivid details and provide a better understanding of what character is thinking. Though the book is more thorough in explaining and providing detail about certain aspects of the story, the writer can't always expect the reader to immediately think and interpret the text the way that the writer wants it to be interpreted. This is where film can provide what a movie maker wants to portray to the person watching the film. A scene can show the viewer a single view that can be interpreted ,most likely, in one way.

Santiago said...

Based on some Wikipedia information on Heart of Darkness, one of the themes of the book is the discovery of degradation of humans through the jungle into a dark place. Perhaps the jungle in Apocalypse Now is not the actually jungle of Vietnam, but the war that, like the jungle in Heart of Darkness, engulfs the man in blackness. As the war in Vietnam continued, the hearts of men may have become blackened and some evil within the heart may have been explored.

I'm sure Coppola reinvented this story because he felt that it is an accurate depiction of the brutalities that were faced in Vietnam.

Cody said...

The whole thing about war in many different ways shows the darkness of men as they become accustomed to war and fighting, and in a sense we all like violence. Even though the video didn't really base any of the story off Heart of Darkness, it did take a lot of values from the reading and brought it into the film to give us the same emotions although very different stories.

james said...

The main character, Captain Marlowe in Conrad's work and Captain Willard in Coppola's work, is the most interesting correlation. In both works, this character has the same basic qualities as the other yet they are totally different men. One such difference is that although both men are captains, Marlowe is the captain of a steamboat and Willard is the captain of a U.S. Army special forces group. This could be due, in large part, to the different occupations and settings of the two captains and the stories that they are in. In both stories the Captain pretty much loses his sanity and becomes a native to the land that he is sent to. Coppola may have recreated Conrad's story to bring back a classic book, but in a different way. Coppola may have wanted to change it so much to make sure that modern viewers would enjoy or to even let everybody know that it is based on a novella that would still be worth reading. Coppola just wanted to get the main points of the story accross without completely harvesting Conrad's story for his own credit. For instance a film can tell the same story just by making sure that the main point gets across and even with a completely different setting, Coppola is able to do this. In a film the feeling can be understood when watching it because of the music playing and the types of shots shown to the audience. In a novel or novella, however, the author must actually comunicate to the audience, these images. If done correctly or effectively rather, these books can often seem as if they are movies.

Kristen said...

probably the reason the movie is based on Heart of Darkness is because so many themes were still relevant between the two time sets. War has many similar themes, which the movie plays on, using various styles of shots to put across the ideas it wanted to present.