Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness (Nicolas Roeg, 1993)

heartWonderful at last to get hold of a copy of Nic Roeg’s telemovie of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1993). And it really is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: it’s not another variation on the theme, like Coppola’s (greatest) movie. The scriptwriter sticks closely to Conrad’s text, tho not with great success, as the result is strangely flat: I guess he (Benedict Fitzgerald) chose some of the wrong bits, and added some bad bits of his own. The acting’s not all that flash, either. Tim Roth is clearly miscast. And even the great Malkovich is Being, well, John Malkovich. And the copy I watched has clearly come off tape and lacks definition to the point of being indistinct. So why do I think it’s so great?

I guess it’s because I’ve watched some other Roeg films lately, and I’ve come to appreciate how he works. It’s quite simple really, and is pretty-much what the Sergeant Major said: ‘First I tells ‘em what I’m going to tell ‘em. Then I tells ‘em. Then I tells ‘em what I’ve told ‘em.’ This is one way of understanding the function of flash-forwards and flashbacks, which NR uses to good effect.

There is also very striking symbolic book-ending using closeups first of an elephant’s skin and then finally its eye, alive and dead, with sounds of its (presumably) dying cries in the background. We think of the cost of the ivory trade, to both elephants and men.

It’s a rare (for me) case of a film which I wish had been longer. I felt that Roeg was constrained by the requirements of the TV format, and I wished been spent more times developing the relationship with the landscape, not to mention the characters.

reviews | Garry Gillard | New: 27 February, 2017 | Now: 19 November, 2018