Lord of the Flies (1963)

I once had an argument about William Golding's classic novel Lord of the Flies. The conversation was bent around what should and should not be censored...that is, what do we let our kids read? I was all for letting highschool students read Lord of the Flies, because I think that it's brilliant and wonderfully morbid. Perhaps a little too heavy handed with its approach to the animalistic side of humanity...but hey, I think it's almost perfect.
A non-arguer made the mistake of walking into the room and heard the book we were discussing. They asked: "What's that about?"
I responded, "It's a book about a group of kids who get shipwrecked on an island and form their own society which falls apart."
"Boys!" The other side quickly interrupted.
"The kids on the islands were boys!" They said it with such disdain; and it got me thinking.
Did it matter that there was only one gender on the island...did it have to be just boys? My friend certainly thought the book was about the masculine gender and went on to clarify their point.
Yet, to me, Lord of the Flies is about a society rather than a gender; it's about humanity rather than men; and it's concerning an idea instead of a setting.
William Golding used children to emphasize his point...a very depressing one at that. He seems to be saying that man is evil...yet, I'm getting ahead of myself.
All this to say, don't mess with Lord of the Flies. It's one of the few books that I will defend even if I know I'm wrong.
When I read the novel, it was cinematic in my head—yet I was thinking that it would be impossible to film.
But Peter Brook thought otherwise and converted Golding's masterpiece to the screen.
The movie begins with curiously dark main titles—still photos are accompanied by sound. These pictures tell the story of a group of boys who get on an airplane that crashes next to an island. It's like "Lost", except not.
"Lord of the Flies" begins with Ralph (James Aubrey) and Piggy (Hugh Edwards) meeting on a beach. It's unclear how long ago the plane crashed, we are led to assume that the craft went down in the night and this is the following morning.
Piggy is overweight, bespectacled, and asthmatic...a perfect verbal punching bag for anyone his age. He despises his nickname, but what can he do?
A conch is found by the two boys and they use it to summon the first of a number of "town meetings". The surviving boys congregate on the beach and matters of survival are brought up.
At first, everything seems cheery. The boys hold a vote and elect Ralph to be their chief—he sees fit to send a scouting team to determine whether or not the beach they are wrecked on is an island or just a peninsula. It quickly becomes clear that they are surrounded by water.
Jack (Tom Chapin) is possibly the oldest of the boys. He leads the choir and is chosen as a hunter.
A few smoke signals, dead pigs, and insults later; and the boys are still on the island with tempers growing.
What's immediately clear about the movie is how it doesn't convince you like the book did. The young actors are just that....actors. They don't convince you of their characters. It's hard working with children and I commend Brook for trying.
I could dissect the movie and tell you what I didn't like and did like at specific instances...but I think I'm already trying you patience (Congratulations if you made it this far. Do you feel elated? Satisfied? Educated? Yeah, me neither).
What I will say is that the movie doesn't capture the magic of the book...the mysticism, the religion even (look up where the title comes from and you'll see what I mean).
It's bloodless when it needs to be bloody. It's loud when it needs to be quiet.
This isn't to say the film is a total waste, in fact it's good. Stark visuals mark the film; haunting, even hypnotic.
There is a lack of ruthlessness that saturated every page of the book, it's what made it classic.
It's a good attempt, but ultimately I think you should just read the book.
Don't let anyone tell you the point of the book relies on the children's genders...because that's nonsense.

Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4

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