William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, is my favorite novel of all time. It’s a dark look into human nature, and the corruption of power. In 1963, British filmmaker Peter Brook adapted it into film. As I’ve often stated before, adapting any form of literature to the screen, is a challenge for any filmmaker. The decision of wether or not to stay true the source material as much as possible, or to take liberties and apply them to your own vision. Brook’s adaptation is very close to Golding’s, with only a few changes. Both the novel, and the film have a sense of ‘Englishness’ to them. In 1990, an American version was made, but it lacked the depth and style of the original. I’ve often considered it one of the worst adaptations of literature ever made. Quite possibly, even worse than RawHead Rex.
Not to spoil much of the story, I’m assuming anyone reading this read this novel in junior high. The story is about a group of English school children, who’s plane has crashed on remote island. They attempt to build a co-operative society, based on order and working together. Several of the main characters reflect archetypes, found in previous literary works.
Ralph, the first chief of this newfound society, represents a leader trying to establish and maintain order. Piggy, his intelligent left hand man is in some ways, the Merlin to his King Arthur. The wise advisor behind the leader.
Opposite them is Jack, the leader of the school choir. I’ve always seen the choir in this story as a representation of a fascist party. With their black robes, and displays of force. Jack even has a right hand man named Roger, who could somewhat seen as a version of Himmler. He’s sadistic, and as the film progresses, develops a taste for cruelty and torture. Unlike Ralph and Piggy, they are the polar opposite. Instead of order and cooperation, they are chaos and primal savagery.
The moral center of the group, is a young boy named Simon. Who is somewhat like a Christ like figure. One who is kind,gentle, and never lies. Even becoming a martyr later on in the film, when chaos has completely taken over the troupe. In a moment reflecting Sainthood, his dead body falls into the sea, and is washed away. A halo of stars form around his head in the waters reflection. From this moment on, all hopes for a peaceful resolution come to an end.
The events finally causing the final split between the two factions, are the rumors of a “Beast” The boys cannot decide weather it comes form the air, or the sea. Golding borrowing from the pages of ‘Revelations’, from the New Testament. Their paranoia slowly undermining the civilized upbringing, that they once had. It’s Simon who points out the great beast isn;t a creature, it’s them. They are the savage to be feared. Indeed, there is a beast in all of us, this is what Goldman’s book, and this film demonstrate.
Lord Of The Flies is a timeless classic. It amazes me how well it holds up, and applies to all generations. Our lives constantly walk a thin line in between order and chaos. No matter how civilized we feel we might be, we are only a few steps away from degenerating into complete savagery.