fri 12/07/2024

Blu-ray: Lord of the Flies | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Lord of the Flies

Blu-ray: Lord of the Flies

Excellent restoration of Peter Brook's classic tale of schoolboys stranded on a desert island

Wild boys: Hugh Edwards as Piggy and James Aubrey as Ralph

This is a timely rerelease of the 1963 version of the William Golding novel, coinciding as it does with the debate about a planned remake with an all-female cast.

Peter Brook’s adaptation sticks closely to the original text: according to a fascinating interview with editor/cameramen Gerard Feil that features as an extra here, there was no script as such. Rather the director would read the book with the cast in the evening, work out the dialogue for the next day, and shoot the resulting scenes with several cameras.

It’s a striking technique, not quite cinema verité or improvisational drama documentary (there’s too much stylisation and overt imagery). It certainly results in something ambitious in structure and more morally challenging than contemporaneous British films made with children (especially when you compare it with the Children’s Film Foundation’s fodder). In fact, it harks forward to the deeper, darker tones of Lindsay Anderson’s If... and Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout. Shot in sequence, the performances and the camerawork noticeably improve over the course of the narrative as confidence grows and the narrative darkens.

Lord of the FliesLord of the Flies opens a touch creakily with a montage of still images à la Chris Marker, hinting at some war or nuclear catastrophe that has caused a plane-load of private schoolboys to be dispatched to safety. A crash has left them on a deserted tropical island, with no adults to supervise them. There’s a brief idyllic montage where they play Crusoe and enjoy the freedom of the island, but rivalries and fears soon develop. Jack, the chief chorister, pompously insists: “We've got to have rules and obey them. After all, we're not savages. We're English, and the English are best at everything.” Order doesn’t last; the nastiness of feral boys indoctrinated with the bullying and hierarchies of the public school system swiftly turns savage.  

This Criterion edition comes with a beautifully rendered restoration of the original print – in high contrast black and white – and specially commissioned extras, including the excellent interview with Feil. He details the cameras, lenses and tracks engineered specifically to tackle the location and the use of stun grenades for lighting the night scenes. He's fascinating, too, on the film's innovative audio design, mostly added in post-production. It's a shame that the repetitive, quasi-martial score intrudes on the naturalistic and highly atmospheric soundtrack.

There’s also a brief deleted scene, the original trailer and an intriguing short documentary made from behind-the-scenes 8 mm colour footage, narrated by one of the former child actors. Peter Brook, the producer Lewis Allen and the DP Tom Hollyman provide an audio narration; there are also television documentaries about William Golding and Peter Brook .

And yes, an all-female remake is a really stupid idea. 


The nastiness of feral boys indoctrinated with the bullying and hierarchies of the public school system swiftly turns savage


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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