Coppola’s Apocalypse Now as Hermeneutics for Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

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A less explored aspect in the relationship between Literature and Cinema is that of the films that are hermeneutical exercises of the literary works that inspired them –be that intended or not by their Screenwriters/Directors. George Steiner has said that “true theatre hermeneutics is representation” (Real Presences, I, 3). In a similar way, may this not occur with film adaptations of certain novels? Could a film, beyond its intrinsic value, also be a hermeneutics of the novel on which it was based? Following T.S. Eliot’s Tradition and the Individual Talent, in the idea that not only the new work is influenced by the canon but it alters the canon itself, I will propose that “Apocalypse Now” by Francis Ford Coppola (1979) is a lucid hermeneutic exercise of Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad. That is, not only that Coppola’s film was inspired by and is a “rewriting” of Conrad’s novel, but that the very meaning and scope of Conrad’s novel have been deepened and enriched thanks to the film. The reason would lie, in my view, in that in the film has remained the same mythos of the novel, which is “the principle and [...] the soul of tragedy” in the words of Aristotle (Poetics 1450a38-39). Furthermore, I will argue that film adaptation of literary works is only possible through rewriting the mythos of the latter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTelling and Re-telling Stories
Subtitle of host publicationStudies on Literary Adaptation to Film
EditorsPaula Baldwin Lind
Place of PublicationNewcastle upon Tyne, UK
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)978-1-4438-8881-3
StatePublished - 2016


  • Film Studies, Literary Adaptation to Film, Joseph Conrado, Francis Ford Coppola


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