Lord of the Flies

Year: 1963
Production Co: Two Arts Ltd
Director: Peter Brook
Producer: Peter Brook
Writer: Peter Brook

I hadn't read William Golding's classic novel at the time of writing this, and I've more recently watched the 1990 remake, but I read a deeper subtext into it than I've read about anywhere else.

I'm not sure how religious Golding was but it seems to me to be a parable for mankind. The boys being stranded on the island could almost mean the formation of the human race, left alone on an uninhabited island (the world) with no idea what to do other than a vague understanding they have to work together to survive.

But to varying degrees some are warlike and power hungry (Jack), some are peaceful and comparatively weak and put faith in the rule of law to help them (Piggy), some the voice of reason that can't shout loud enough as the world falls apart into savagery (Ralph). The boys are lost in every sense of the world, without the guiding hand of their wise teachers or parents (God) and left to make their way. As history tells us, the self-interest of each member of the collective can be more powerful (and destructive) than the interests of group survival.

After their plane crashes in the ocean a group of English private school boys are washed up on a desert island. Scared and alone, at first they figure things out reasonably. Nobody speaks unless he has the official forum to do so (the conch shell), and they democratically elect the level headed and practical Ralph their leader.

One of their first orders of business is to light a fire high on a hill to attract the rescue planes or search parties they know must be looking for them. But a more insidious dynamic is at play in the hot-headed Jack. He takes it upon himself to lead the hunting party, and he and his increasing number of devotees are more interested in tracking and killing the native wild pigs than they are being rescued, Jack suddenly realising he rules his new, small world and enjoying it too much.

The kids' natural imagination gives them a perceived enemy in the beast that lives at the top of the hill (in reality the billowing parachute attached to the dead pilot who bailed out of their plane) and the stage is set for barbarism. More kids fall under Jack's hypnotic sway and the goal of rescue is all but forgotten. Even when – during a frenzy of bloodlust – Jack and his tribe accidentally commit murder, they convince themselves it's a kill or be killed world. Their self justification for their act makes Piggy and Ralph realise their days are numbered, huddling alone and in terror.

Despite the literary merit of the idea the technicalities of the movie leave a lot to be desired. What passed for good child actors is appalling by today's standards so while this is worth watching if you're a completist, the remake is more entertaining and accomplished in a creative sense.

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