The environment refers to the objects that constitute or contain the activities of the characters. It is an indispensable component of the story structure. The environment is becoming more and more important because of the intuitiveness needs of the audience. The environment can often be actively involved in the process of film meaning construction. Therefore, studying environmental factors is also an area that needs attention when discussing adaptation.
There is a phrase in the film industry called montage of attraction. Through visually organized similar objects, montage of attraction is able to connect images that are separated from each other and contributed to an interrelated theme. Film passages composed of such montages contain not only narrative means, but also ideological connotations. In the adaptation of the novel Heart of Darkness into Apocalypse Now, the description of the environment in the novel is reproduced in the film. The director of the film has successfully visualized the environmental setting, metaphor, and personification from the original novel.
Both the novel and the movie construct the setting through symbolic objects. In a sense, Heart of Darkness is a symbolic work. One of the core features of the novel is the use of symbolism. It is a key feature of almost all great literary creations. Words such as “darkness”, “wilderness”, “jungle”, and “river” (Conrad 7) all belong to the symbolic construction throughout the entire work. Once the reader establishes an inertial understanding of a certain spatial dimension, it will form a mindset that influences their further cognition, thereby further enhancing the reader’s meaningful understanding of these images and the theme of the novel. Although the film is set in a different era and location, the jungle setting and the environment are preserved, as an inheritance from the novel. The filmmakers also depict the bloody war action through the environment setting of ruthless bombing, the hell-like battlefield, to express the twisted mission of modern civilization and the horrors of the war. The strong stylized setting of Apocalypse Now even won it an Oscar in Cinematography.
The use of metaphor through environment objects is another common feature for both the film and the novel. The novel tells the story of a Congo adventure, with many environmental descriptions. One important image is fog. When Marlow approached the Kurtz camp, the steamboat encountered a thick fog: “When the sun rose there was a white fog, very warm and clammy, and more blinding than the night” (Conrad 64). As the adventure continued, fog appeared frequently, becoming a metaphor for danger, fear, and the unknown. This metaphor is naturally picked up by the adapter. At the beginning of the film, red and orange smokes are used. Throughout the film, the fog-like environment appears many times. The fog represents the danger and death lurking in the darkness. For example, the soldiers lit up purple smoke bombs, which led to attacks by indigenous people, killing the soldiers. The fog/smoke image frequently appearing in the film environment s is in line with the related description of the original novel, bringing the audience a strong visual impact.
Personification brings the environment to life, contributing to the plot and the theme. When the novel describes the African jungle, it is portrayed as a place with mysterious power. The environment itself is a form of being. The environment in the novel seems to have been given life: “It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect” (Conrad 55). The element of the environment was personified at this time, as if it had the ability to think. In the movie, inanimate environment can be as expressive as actors. In Apocalypse Now, environment personification is achieved through the use of light. There are multiple scenes that cleverly use light in the film. For example, in the scene of the performance troupe, a strong spotlight is used to illuminate the stage. This created a sharp contrast with the jungle background and the surrounding environment. The sense of dislocation is easily constructed through the conscious change in the light.
In conclusion, a continuation of environment descriptions is observed from the novel and the film. The setting and environment is an area that is easily overlooked compared to plot and character. As the environment is integrated into the plot framework along with the character actions, the nature of the environment itself should receive more attention. This essay has examined the use of environment setting, the metaphor of the fog, and the personification of the environment in the film and the novel. Film is the art of color, light, and shadow. Through adaptation, the important environment descriptions in the novel have been successfully transformed into symbolic scenes in the film. The way that Apocalypse Now deals with environment scenes gives the film a rich connotation.