Francis Ford Coppola (dir.), Apocalypse Now (1979)
In the first half of this lecture, Christina Hendricks discusses themes of light and dark, surface and depth in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, as well as concerns about racism (as put forward by Chinua Achebe) and misogynism in the text.
In the second half of the lecture, Derek Gladwin (guest lecturer for this session) discusses the historical and cultural background to Apocalypse Now, its genre, its references to T.S. Eliot, and the significance of the song by the Doors that bookends the film.
Please see this Mediasite link for the lecture video with the slides attached (the YouTube video embedded below doesn’t have the slides).
- link to Christina Hendricks’ presentation on Heart of Darkness on prezi.com
- PDF of Christina Hendricks’ presentation on Heart of Darkness: ConradPrezi-Jan2016
- link to Derek Gladwin’s presentation on Apocalypse Now on prezi.com
- What does a comparison of the lives and experiences of men and women in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness suggest about the novel’s representation of gender?
- Compare Kurtz’s last words in Coppola’s film (“the horror”) to their appearance in Heart of Darkness.
- Heart of Darkness has been seen by critics as both a critique of colonialism and as itself a racist text that takes for granted certain imperialist assumptions. On the basis of the text alone, argue for where you stand on this issue.
- What is the significance of the narrative structure of Heart of Darkness in the context of its content? You could consider, for example, that Marlow is not the narrator of the story.
- Analyze one or more recurring images or motifs in either Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, discussing how this image or images contribute(s) to the story or film.
- Conrad’s Marlow does not kill Kurtz, but Coppola’s Willard does. What accounts for the seemingly different motivations between Marlow and Willard?
- How does Coppola translate Conrad’s imagery of light and dark into the medium of film?
- Marlow refers to the Congo as “the biggest, the most blank” space left on the world map (73). How do conceptions of space and place—including, if you wish, a sense of non or “blank” space—contribute to the themes of either (or both) novel and film?
- Perspective plays a central role in Heart of Darkness. What are some different ways of seeing in the novel, and how do they lead to different ways of knowing?
- To what extent is Conrad’s use of figurative and literal darkness intended to remind the reader that s/he cannot actually see?
- Heart of Darkness begins in a real location on the Thames river, but feels more like a dream than a typical sailor’s yarn. Apocalypse Now, too has been described as dream-like. How might Freud interpret either the novel or the film?