Review for Lord of the Flies
‘Lord of the Flies’ remains a powerful and thought-provoking film to this day, despite being steeped in a stoic, post-war public-school sensibility that may be somewhat unrecognisable to children today. Based on Golding’s classic novel of the same name, it’s a wildly imaginative fictional essay, exploring what would likely happen if a group of thirty children, between the ages of ten and thirteen, were to crash-land on a desert island where they would need to work together in order to survive without any intervention or leadership from adults.
It was shot in the summer of 1963 and directed by Peter Brook using a completely non-professional cast of kids, filmed on an actual island during school holidays. Brook used an almost documentary, fly-on-the-wall approach to try and get the best from the kids and create a realistic atmosphere.
After their plane is shot down, and the boys arrive safely on the shore of a desert island, still wearing their school uniforms of choir-boy gowns, they quickly organise themselves in order to survive. A vote is held to decide who should be their leader and Ralph (Balthazar Getty) is elected as chief, much to the disdain of head choir-boy Jack (Chris Furrh) who assumed that he should really lead.
Ralph proves to be a reasonable and able leader, whilst Jack leads his group of choir boys as ‘hunters’. In the meantime, one of the kids talks about a strange noise he has heard at night; possibly a giant beast which roams the woodland of the islands interior.
Tensions between the two factions rise with Jack eventually splintering off to form his own ‘tribe’ – one free from rules and regulations.
In the meantime, poor ‘piggy’, a podgy spectacle wearing asthmatic, is cruelly bullied by the children and before long his glasses, and any remnants of his dignity are broken. Despite that, he remains the a voice of contention, questioning decisions and pointing out the flaws in the tribe’s strategies.
Standards of acting are highly variable and somewhat stilted by today’s standards. These were untrained kids after all. When you add some of the stuffy, public school formality into the mix it all feels a little stilted and pat, despite the director’s attempt to create a naturalistic drama. By all accounts, Golding himself was pleased with the endresult and felt it was a fair reflection of his novel’s aim.
I have a previous DVD release of the film which looked pretty good but this HD transfer really does justice to the top-notch monochrome cinematography. It’s imaginatively directed and cut, giving real pace and atmosphere to the film. The transfer is pretty close to flawless with an excellent print, apparently restored to its original glory in 4K under the expert supervision of editor and cameraman, Gerald Feil.
Lest I should forget, this is a Criterion release and you know what that means? That’s right! A film school in a box with copious contextual extras, in this case worth the price of admission on their own.
Special Edition Features:
- Audio commentary featuring director Peter Brook, producer Lewis Allen, director of photography Tom Hollyman, and editor Geradl Feil
- Audio recordings of William Golding reading from his novel Lord of the Flies, accompanied by the corresponding scenes from the film
- Deleted scene, with optional commentary and Golding reading
- Interview with Peter Brook from 2008
- Collection of behind-the-scenes material, including home movies, screen tests, outtakes, and stills
- Excerpt from a 1980 episode of The South Bank Show featuring Golding
- New interview with Gerald Feil
- Excerpt from Feil’s 1973 documentary The Empty Space, showcasing Brook’s theater methods
- Living “Lord of the Flies,” a piece composed of never-before-seen footage shot by the boy actors during production, with new voice-over by actor Tom Gaman
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Geoffrey Macnab and an excerpt from Brook’s utobiography The Shifting Point
‘Lord of the Flies’ is an absolute classic and one that every self-respecting film fan should watch at least once. What it lacks though performance, it more than makes up for through tight direction and excellent cinematography. It’s thought-provoking, unsettling and wildly entertaining, despite its vintage. This Criterion release, with an incredible restored transfer and masses of contextual extras must be the definitive edition and is highly recommended.