Peter Brook’s adaptation of the classic William Golding novel, comes to blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
When a plane full of young students from a boy’s school crash lands on a deserted island, they struggle to survive and attempt to maintain order amongst themselves while free of adult rules and control.
Golding’s tale of the cruel and feral nature of humanity is a staple for English classes up and down the country. The 1963 adaptation by theatre director Peter Brook, attempts to bring the book to the screen, but only partially succeeds.
Opening with static pictures that deftly reveal how the children end up on the island, it’s not long before fractures start to show and lines are drawn. Chubby, glasses wearing asthmatic Piggy (Hugh Edwards) meets the bold Ralph (James Aubrey) on the beach. These two are the sound mind of the group, attempting to create some order from the chaos of the situation. However, children will be children and a personal betrayal foreshadows the cruelty that will come. Things only get worse as Jack (Tom Chapin) and his choir boys appear. Jack asserts his authority and declares that he leads the choir as hunters. The fight for dominance begins as Jack moves towards violence after getting fresh blood on his hands, while Ralph and Piggy try to keep a semblance or rule and order.
The film is in such a hurry to move itself along. It barrels at such a quick pace, that though it never drags during its ninety minute running time, it does mean that its characters are thinly sketched. The main characters never manage to break away from being thematic archetypes, Ralph the good guy trying to keep a structure, Jack the chaotic dictator who feels they should only hunt and wants to be a leader himself. As the film tries to hit the dramatic points of the novel, it struggles to give them any resonance. Simon’s descent in to madness, a powerful and disturbing strand in the novel, is barely felt as he feels like a fringe character only just graced with a name. This means that when certain characters meet their fates, they aren’t keenly felt. In its attempts to stay child friendly, it also glosses over some of the more disturbing aspects of the book and its characters, and the madness that envelopes the group. It lends itself better to a more visceral and bold adaptation.
The ideas and plotting of Golding’s novel shines through, but this adaptation fails to find its power as it feels the need to rush through to the end.
LORD OF THE FLIES (1963) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: PETER BROOK / STARRING: JAMES AUBREY, HUGH EDWARDS, TOM CHAPIN, ROGER ELWIN / RELEASE DATE: 28TH AUGUST