Critical of contemporary colonialism yet irretreivably rooted in its racist traditions, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is as important as it is problematic. As a critique of colonialist hypocrisy, the novella is also a profoundly racist text rooted in the contemporary ideology of a civilised Europe and a primordial, savage Africa: ‘a prehistoric earth … that wore the aspect of an unknown planet.’ Francis Ford Coppola adapted Conrad’s novella in 1979 with Apocalypse Now. Coppola’s film relocates ninenteenth-century ivory trading to the horrors of the Vietnam War, but the colonial concerns remain much the same.
Apocalypse Now’s imagery has been borrowed by everything from the nostalgic Americana of Forrest Gump to the sci-fi insurgency of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. But undoubtedly the most potent modern interpretation of the film is Yager Development’s 2012 video game Spec Ops: The Line.
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