Lord of the Flies (1963) *English language film

Posted by on Dec 12, 2011 in Foreign | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Intense savagery in the form of male nudity and murder.

Two young boys wearing dirty school uniforms slowly make their way through thick jungle brush. Our view of the subjects is close, borderline claustrophobic, making it hard to decipher their surroundings. They eventually penetrate the thick trees and make their way toward a sandy beach. Though the tropical sun blinds their view, they scan their eyes over a vast ocean. The camera pans slowly toward the ocean, leaving the subjects distant in the left corner. Though they’ve said very little, we now understand their feeling of isolation and begin to realize their bleak situation. Thus begins director Peter Brook’s close adaptation of William Golding’s famous novel. While Golding’s story painted a powerful image of savagery amidst civilization – analogous with politics, war, and patriarchy – Brook accentuates its power with this series of beautiful (and often creepy) images.

Ralph (James Aubrey) and Piggy Flies2(Hugh Edwards) are two of about a dozen British students who are stranded on an island after their plane crashes into the ocean. Though never made clear, the boys were evacuating Britain due to threats of nuclear war. When the boys congregate and introduce themselves, they immediately hold an election. The boys nominate Ralph and Jack (Tom Chapin), who leads a stuck-up choir group in black cloaks. When Ralph assumes the role of chief, Jack vies to lead a group of hunters. As Ralph notes, the island has fruits, water, and no dangerous animals, “So if we’re sensible, do things properly, and don’t lose our heads, we’ll be all right.”

Under Ralph’s leadership, they build shelters, hunt for food, and assign a committee to always tend a rescue fire. But before long, paranoia sets in and some boys speak of vicious snake beasts and winged creatures. Thus Jack, and his crew of pig hunters (who chant, “Kill the pig! Slit her throat! Bash her in!”), begin a dictatorship faction emphasizing fun (violence) and food (violence), over Ralph’s democratic sensibility. Things spiral rather quickly as they grow ruthlessly violent and savage – even going so far as wearing face paint, carving spears, and killing anything in sight. Imagine Swiss Family Robinson vacationing in hell, and then you’re close.

Brook auditioned more then 3,000 actors before choosing his cast, who seem surprisingly seasoned considering most are first-time actors. The role of Piggy famously went to Edwards after he wrote Brook a letter beginning, “Dear Sir, I am fat and wear spectacles.” Brook is mostly known in Britain for his theatrical productions (many Shakespeare), but earned a nomination for the coveted Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival for this flick. Though many of you may disagree, Brook made a spot-on decision when opting for black-and-white film stock as it adds an element of dark grittiness, which would otherwise be saturated with plush, bright greenery. And, as I cited earlier, his camera moves expertly to accentuate the feeling of isolation with shot distance and placement. He likewise throws creepiness over the edge with erratic jump cuts and pulsing drum beats during select moments of tension. But the excellent film owes mostly to Golding’s novel, which – like George Orwell’s Animal Farm – alludes to an uncomfortable reality and we slowly realize that perhaps this is more than mere fiction.

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