In 1939, Orson Welles wrote the script for a film based on the short novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, published in 1899. Heart of Darkness tells the story of a young British officer named Marlow, and his long journey up the river Congo looking for Kurtz, an ivory collector who was gone missing. A mythical initiatory journey that had inspired the young director he then was, for his first movie. However, this film never saw the light of day because of the producers’ reluctance. There were many reasons why production refused to pursue this project, but they were all inherent to the very difficult political context in the thirties.
Questions of dehumanization and human madness are at the center of Conrad’s text. Moreover, he caught the attention of a major figure in the political history, Hannah Arendt, and nourished certain of her thoughts on totalitarianism. Later, in the seventies, Francis Coppola took over the original story by Conrad, and transposed it in the context of the Vietnam war, with the direction of the movie Apocalypse Now.
Fiona Banner — British artist, born in 1966, part of the generation of the Young British Artists and finalist of the Turner Prize in 2002 — takes up Orson Welles film project and realizes an artist’s film inspired by Welles’ first draft. In parallel, she decides to conceive the promotional tools of this “ghost” film and commissions three graphic designers’ agencies in London — La Boca, Name Creative and Empire Design — to create four posters entitled The Greatest Film Never Made. When looking at these posters, it is clear that still today the Shakespearian heritage runs at the core of English esthetic, and particularly in the work of the agencies in London in charge of the graphic identity of the theatrical and cinematographic scene of the Kingdom.
Welles’ love for Shakespearian theatre and its extraordinary characters can be sensed in each of the produced posters, and remind us of the dramaturgy of the British master, who was an expert in the representation of the aspects of human nature... in his darkest aspects, in the Heart of Darkness.