Universal Truths In Francis Ford Coppola's Film Apocalypse Now

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Joseph Conrad, though his 1899 novella, ‘Heart of Darkness’ dares to expose the universal truths intrinsic to humanity, as a reaction to the colonialist mindset of the time. Conrad, through his eloquent and sophisticated language sheds light on British colonial expansion into the “dark continent,” Africa. Through the eyes of his protagonist, Charles Marlow, Conrad explores the inner complexities of the human psyche, with particular attention to the hypocrisy of Imperialism and one’s tendency to revert to baser instincts when isolated from civilising influences. Francis Ford Coppola’s film ‘Apocalypse Now’ is an appropriation of ‘Heart of Darkness’ that seeks to present these universal truths in a new context. Through his use of film techniques,…show more content…
Conrad’s extended metaphor of the river emphasises man’s inherent predisposition for evil. As Marlow moves further down the river, away from society, he slowly begins to lose his civilisation, seen in, “I was getting savage.” Prompted by the landscape around him ponders, ”The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us - who could tell?” The reference to prehistoric man, reaffirming man’s primitive instincts. Conrad furthers this idea through his employment of religious imagery. Through the “white fog, very warm and clammy, and more blinding than the night.” that envelopes the steamer, and the later “complaining clamour, modulated in savage discords” produced by the natives, Conrad alludes to the Whited Sepulchre, again reflecting man’s disguised evil. As Marlow narrates the novella, the audience gains a personal insight into his thoughts, causing self reflection. Whilst in Coppola’s appropriation of film, through mis en scene, Coppola is able to orchestrate his messages visually and solicit an immediate emotional response. In Coppola’s appropriation of the White Sepulchre, the Vietnamese people are painted white, physically embodying the idea of ‘evil dressed as good.’ The Sepulchre is positioned on boats blocking the end of the river, signifying the end of Willard’s symbolic river journey. Through the haunting non-diegetic sound, comparable to a heartbeat, close up camera angles and the ‘red sea’ like parting of the Vietnamese boats, Coppola dramatical depicts Willard entering a ‘Heart of Darkness.’ The photojournalist that greets Willard on the river bank, an appropriation of the harlequin, represents the presence of media throughout the war and its mental impact on individuals. Through his line, “we are all his children” it is shown that Colonel Kurtz has reached godlike status among

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