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Heart of Darkness
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Quick Reads > 2012/04 - Heart of Darkness

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message 1: by Zeljka (last edited Aug 10, 2012 05:56AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zeljka (ZTook) | 1224 comments Mod
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad's the most respected novella, wasn't adapted so many times as one would expect – the most famous adaptation wasn't even a literal one, switching the setting from Congo at the turn of the century to Vietnam during the War 1970s – of course, we are talking about Apocalypse Now (1979).

The movie itself drew a huge amount of inspiration from the other lunatics’ movie, Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) aka “Aguirre, The Wrath of God”. Having seen both of them, I honestly cannot say which is less disturbing – both were equally long present in my dreams / nightmares when I was kid. Therefore, an advice – hide those movies from any kid around your TV. You'll know you failed in an attempt if you hear them whimpering afterwards in the sleep ;)

However, there is actually one faithful (that remains to be seen) adaptation made in 1993, Heart of Darkness, which features the coolest actors of 90's, John Malkovich and Tim Roth.


Now, from photos shown here, we are to assume that for the first-timers this will be quite a dreary reading. If you are not in a mood for it, don't worry, you do not have to read it nor see the movies.
I personally will try, firstly because I've read the story long time ago, and seen Apocalypse Now long time ago too. Secondly, I would like to see that Heart of Darkness TV movie mentioned above. Hadn't had a chance to see it yet, so this is quite an opportunity to get ahold of it.

Every comment, opinion, quote, like and dislike would be more than welcome :)


message 2: by Zeljka (last edited May 06, 2012 01:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zeljka (ZTook) | 1224 comments Mod
Well – I did our monthly assignment, a bit late but better ever than never, like someone said before. It wasn't really hard, because I like the novella, but I regreted for suggesting it as a quick read, because a novella of about a hundred of pages isn't quite a quick read. Now I know – I should have been more careful. Sorry.

Okay, I love the novella, even if it is my third or fourth reading. For its gloominess, darkness, sarcasm, sadness. Any depressive label would fit, to be honest. I remember that when I've read it for a first time, I deeply disliked it, but only because I was still annoyingly naive high school girl to whom such a gloominess and depravity of human character wasn't really relatable. Besides, it was an obligate school read, with many other things to do on my mind. The second reading was for my pleasure (although I hardly can recall what had actually made me to read it for the second time) and here I am now, assuring you this Conrad's piece of work is awesome. But not for everyone's tastes, I agree, and not really pleasing if you are not in the mood. Especially if you are currently in the happy-go-lucky mode.

Ok, what interests me here the most, are the adaptations I mentioned in the first post. Seen last night three hours long Apocalypse Now Redux version, with all those cut scenes with the French and the playgirls. To be honest, those scenes weren't really essential for the story, but the French were cut probably because of the controversy of dialogues, that maybe at the time weren't quite politically correct. They still aren't, but the governments now stopped to care so much about the contents of the movies.
In short, although different from the novella in some aspects (the setting and the ending for an example), it captures perfectly the journey to the darkness and/or lunacy of the main and all the other characters. The scenes with Kilgore (Robert Duvall's lunatic cowboy surfer lieutenant colonel) were unbelievable, perfectly ridiculed the whole warring efforts thing and I especially loved short post surfboard-theft hiding scene. And a kid – Clean – was Laurence Fishburne? Really? He seemed a bit familiar, that's how I found out that's him - didn't recognize him at all! He was fourteen at a time of shooting :) Didn't like the whole animal sacrifice thing, because it was real, not fabricated (and demanded quite a lot of repeats, I hope this is really a hearsay, maybe I'll check a documentary about the movie - Hearts of Darkness - A Filmmaker's Apocalypse) but I guess it had a deeper meaning considering the whole picture. Now, that doesn't change what I think, that it really wasn't necessary. There are always other means to achieve something. But that is an animal lover speaking, not a filmmaker.

Heart of Darkness made for TV in 1993, is really hard to come by. Got it on video tape, was on a cable long time ago. I do not understand why some movies still do not get a release on DVD, as this movie really wasn't bad. All the actors are respectable, from Tim Roth who by the way perfectly covered the sardonic character of Marlow, John Malkovich, James Fox and Isaach De Bankolé. If you wondered, and I did, how the nature and the period described in the novella really looked like, then this movie offered you that look, and in those things surprised me a bit. However, it failed to match the ambiance of the novella and somehow misinterpreted some things, purposedly or not, doesn't matter now, the movie as a whole didn't work. It doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it, it isn't really that bad, but being aware of the source novel, and how it could have been better, you might find yourself really disappointed.

Although, it is reasonable to believe that any effort to adapt the novella cannot ever be a match to Apocalypse Now. Did you know that Marlon Brando hadn't even read the novella before the shooting of his scenes and Coppola had stubbornly read it all to him just because he desperately wanted the actor to capture the essence of his character? The movie maybe isn't totally faithful to the novella, but I think Conrad would be proud of it anyway.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 498 comments Mod
I had to read Heart of Darkness three times for different classes. The first was in high school and I hated it. We watched Apocalypse Now right afterwards. I hated that even more. I read the book again in college and didn't hate it but still didn't really care for it. The third time a year or two later I'm not sure I really read it but more participated in the discussions about it. The second and third times I did try to give it a fair shot, recognizing that the first time I was, as Zeljka said, "an annoyingly naive high school girl" and I shouldn't judge a book by my perceptions at that age. After all my time in the book, however, I would not force myself through it again. I understand the concepts and themes, but with a world out there full of books and so little time, I feel my time is better served even reading a new book with the same theme. I have not, however, seen any other film version, although this one with John Malkovich sounds very intriguing, I may have to check that out.

One thing I will give Joseph Conrad credit for is that English was not his first language. I don't recall his ancestry exactly but I believe he might have been Polish? At any rate, it is a remarkably well-written book considering he wrote it in a second language. That alone gives it a major boost since he uses incredibly deep language to describe his characters, backdrop and the depravity of mind. I may not care for the book, but I certainly respect the quality of work.


Zeljka (ZTook) | 1224 comments Mod
Alana wrote: "I had to read Heart of Darkness three times for different classes. The first was in high school and I hated it. We watched Apocalypse Now right afterwards. I hated that even more..."

Yes, I recall that feeling long time ago. Interesting how one book can have different influence on us as time passes by. I appreciated it fully just now, as well as the movie. The first watching of Apocalypse Now was just the same as yours, with total puzzlement and horror :-)
As for Conrad's ancestry, that impressed me too. Given English was his second language, he really mastered it. Maybe too perfectly? Beside this one, I read only Lord Jim, so I wouldn't know, but intend to read Amy Foster, because of its adaptation Swept from the Sea (1997) with Rachel Weisz and Vincent Perez in main roles. Hey, another short story for consideration ;-) although I think it is also depressing. He was really gloomy author.


Maria I liked the story very much but found it extremely difficult to read - it took three sittings and even then I had to review it several more times before I felt like I started to really understand it at a surface level. I realize that it is a story of great depth and that I may have to read it several times to appreciate it fully. On this first go around, the question that kept haunting me throughout was "Who are the savages really?" and of course, the horrifying answer every time was "The white imperialists." Conrad remarked on H of D, "...it is well known that curious men go prying into all sorts of places (where they have no business) and come out of them with all kinds of spoil. This story...(is) all the spoil I brought out from the centre of Africa, where really I had no sort of business....Heart of Darkness is experience pushed a little (and only a little) beyond actual facts of the case for the perfectly legitimate, I believe, purpose of bringing it home to the minds and bosoms of the readers...That sombre theme had to be given a sinister resonance, a tonality of its own, a continued vibration that, I hoped, would hang in the air and dwell on the ear after the last note had been struck." Conrad certainly achieved his goal with this reader at least - the horror of it all is firmly etched in my mind where I continue to penetrate deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness.


Zeljka (ZTook) | 1224 comments Mod
Beautiful review Maria... And great findings of Conrad's remarks. Even these few sentences made me shudder. He achieved that continued vibration in my case too. Thanks for sharing!


Maria Zeljka wrote: "Beautiful review Maria... And great findings of Conrad's remarks. Even these few sentences made me shudder. He achieved that continued vibration in my case too. Thanks for sharing!"

Thanks, Zeljka. I've seen Apocalypse Now (1979) but had no idea at the time that it was based on The Heart of Darkness. I saw it quite a long time ago so I don't remember everything, but I do remember it was one of the darkest and most frightening movies I've ever seen. I actually think I've blocked it out because it was so frightening. I'd like to see the Malkovich version that you mentioned. He is a favorite of mine. I didn't know about this version. I will try to get it and watch it soon.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Zeljka wrote: "Well – I did our monthly assignment, a bit late but better ever than never, like someone said before. It wasn't really hard, because I like the novella, but I regreted for suggesting it as a quick ..."

I tried reading the Heart of Darkness, but it was just too gloomy. I got too depressed and had to stop reading it. I have not seen the movie. I wonder if the movie is just as depressing or maybe it's better.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 498 comments Mod
Apocalypse Now is worse, in my opinion, but it's been years since I've seen it, and I wasn't fond of Heart of Darkness anyway. I don't know about other versions.


Olga Miret (goodreadscomOlgaNM) | 14 comments Hi:
Sorry I caught up this quite late. I read Heart of Darkness a few years back when doing a BA in American Literature (yes, it's not American Literature but there was a module on Modernist writing). Although not an easy novel I loved it, and I guess the seminars really helped with that. The same year as part of American Cinema course we studied Apocalypse Now and although saying that I love it is bizarre (it's not a loveable movie by any description), it is a great movie about the madness of the war, in the same way as Heart of Darkness was a beautifully written book about the madness of colonization. Coppola's film captures very well (as Zeljka writes)the atmosphere and the meaning of the novel, althuogh transposed to a different era and situation. Some of the scenes (like the building and blowing up of bridges for no apparent reason, the fact that nobody seems to be in charge of anything, the incongruent scenes of Americans trying to go surfing and have a bbq in the middle of an explosions and bombings, and their complete lack of understanding of their surroundings) will stay with me and I must admit I can't hear Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries without imagining helicopters flying.
It is quite interesteing to read Michael Herr's book 'Dispatches'in relation to the film also. He was a war reporter during the Vietnam war and helped with the dialogue of the film.
I have never watched any other versions so can't comment. Although there is a book called 'My sister Killjoy' by Ama Ata Aidoo (she became Minister of Education of Ghana and currently is Prof. at Brown) that is very interesting and explores (among many other things) the trip in reverse, with an African girl travelling to Germany, and the issues she encounters there.
I know I'm over enthusiastic about the topic, but I also wrote an essay comparing Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now as assignment and got the highest grade for the whole of the degree so I'm fond of it.


Zeljka (ZTook) | 1224 comments Mod
Olga wrote: "Hi:
Sorry I caught up this quite late. I read Heart of Darkness a few years back when doing a BA in American Literature (yes, it's not American Literature but there was a module on Modernist writi..."


Wow great review, so well said, and really adds to understanding of both the movie and the story. I wish I can have a peek at that essay of yours :) You have every right to be proud of it!

Olga wrote: "Michael Herr's book 'Dispatches'...'My sister Killjoy' by Ama Ata Aidoo"

Someone recommended me that Herr's book too, quite recently. Is it really worth reading, in comparison with the other books and memoirs about Vietnam? I know the other reviews seem very glowing - but as there are so many books worth reading, I wish to choose wisely which to read...
I'll note the other book you mentioned as well :) Thanks for recommendation!


Jim (jkmfilms) | 29 comments Olga wrote: "...we studied Apocalypse Now and although saying that I love it is bizarre (it's not a loveable movie by any description), it is a great movie about the madness of the war..."

Olga - I completely agree! I love the film. It's dark, and it can be slow. But it's engaging and it completely captures the insanity of war.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 498 comments Mod
That sounds like another one to add to the TBR. Thanks Olga!


Celia Walters | 1 comments I had the same experience as many of you. I hated it the first time but after oh I don't know...the fourth read it really grows on you.


Alana (alanasbooks) | 498 comments Mod
Celia wrote: "I had the same experience as many of you. I hated it the first time but after oh I don't know...the fourth read it really grows on you."

Like a fungus, as my dad would say...


message 16: by Zeljka (last edited Oct 31, 2012 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zeljka (ZTook) | 1224 comments Mod
A bit off topic now -- I've just seen Audible special offer for Kindle (app) owners:
Heart of Darkness  by Joseph Conrad -- this particular edition of Heart of Darkness narrated by Kenneth Branagh is right now offered FOR FREE.

Thought it would be nice to inform you. Unless it's actually old news. Well, in any case, here is the link if you are interested:

http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_5?...


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Lord Jim (other topics)
Amy Foster (other topics)
Heart of Darkness (other topics)