A group of British school boys are stranded on an island after a thunderstorm causes their plane to crash. Do they A) celebrate their good fortune B) find a corner and mope, or C) devolve into savages and begin killing one another. If you have read the book, then you know two things: this was a very stupid poll, and the answer is ‘C.’
Adapted from William Golding’s classic novel published in the mid-50s following WWII, ‘Lord of the Flies’ was to be released onto the silver screen only a decade later, in all its revolutionary and horror-inducing glory. For those of you not in the know, ‘Lord of the Flies’ is the answer to every parent’s question about whether their kid can take care of themselves over the weekend.
Upon realizing that they are not only stranded, but also without one single adult to care for them, the upper-class students – boys of military commanders, successful businessmen, etc. – take very reasonable and understandable measures: they band together into a single unit of solidarity. From there, it becomes a sort of demented case study; democracy is established early on in the film when the boys elect Ralph as their leader; but also, a sort of military “fascism” is brought in to the picture, when Jack, a head choir boy, asserts his role as leader of the boys’ hunting and gathering party.
Following the release and success of the book, many approached Golding to ask why he chose a group of boys, instead of, say, a group of girls, or a collective of girls and boys, to focus on. Golding’s response was that, boiled down, any community is essentially that of the men (in a tangential approach, think of it in terms of the expression “the dawn of man” or “man’s best friend”). Furthermore, what better way to expose human kind’s potential for evil than to showcase said metamorphosis through the purity of an innocent child (or a group, for that matter)?
As the prescribed three months of the novel passes by, the deterioration of the mismanaged, split commune is as evident as the boys’ rotting clothes. Thoughts of escape and rescue give way to an obsession with self-preservation, which in turn gives way to unchecked savagery demarcated by fear and lust for control. Democracy is thrown by the wayside in favor of promises of sustenance and safety from a seemingly omnipotent being, referred to only as “the beast.”
‘Lord of the Flies’ isn’t necessarily a fable, or a fairy tale, or even a warning. It is, in fact, a mirror into our very soul. Every single last one of us.
The extras included with the Criterion version of this film are extensive, including deleted scenes, interviews with director Peter Brook and editor Gerald Feil, a collection of behind-the-scenes material, and a booklet featuring an essay by film critic Geoffrey Macnab, and an excerpt from Brook’s autobiography The Shifting Point. But for this examiner, the highlight of these was definitely the Living ‘The Lord of the Flies’ featurette. With the help of an 8mm camera that the director lent to the children at the time, we get a pretty cool look at the latter during their downtime between takes. Accompanying this is a narration by actor Tom Gaman (who plays Simon). After watching the film, it’s almost surreal to see them in a normal environment.
‘Lord of the Flies’ has been rated TV-14. For more information on questionable content within this film, click HERE.
This film is available at the following retail stores and online markets:
Target — DVD ; Criterion ; Criterion Blu-Ray
Best Buy — DVD ; Criterion ; Criterion Blu-Ray
Amazon — DVD ; Criterion ; Criterion Blu-Ray
Walmart — DVD ; Criterion ** ; Criterion Blu-Ray
Barnes and Noble — DVD ; Criterion ; Criterion Blu-Ray
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