Posted by: ckckred | September 3, 2014

Lord of the Flies


I first read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies back in middle school alongside George Orwell’s Animal Farm. As I dug my eyes into Golding’s novel, I was terrified at the growing anarchy and collapse of discipline of the novel, that young, seemingly innocent boys could be turned into deranged killers and savages. An allegory for human society and governments, Lord of the Flies retains its horrors today through its adolescent ensemble of characters, easy for readers wishing to graduate to more mature books to latch onto the story.

It’s unfortunate, though, that Peter Brook’s 1963 adaptation of the novel just can’t live up to Golding’s writing. The movie’s fault isn’t that it’s unfaithful; in fact, despite a lack of gore or ravenous bloodshed, Lord of the Flies doesn’t shy away from the more graphic occurrences in the book. Rather, the huge underlying flaw of Lord of the Flies is that despite Brook’s effort, he can’t seem to make Lord of the Flies seem as believable and real as it was on paper. Perhaps it has to do with its novice cast, lack of big scenery, or the often misplaced score (during the film’s end didn’t quite fit the mood of bleakness or failed to properly convey irony), but Lord of the Flies suffers from comparison to the book.

After a group of English boys drift from their crashed plane onto an island, they find themselves alone without any adult supervision. Ralph (James Aubrey) decides to set up a leadership and after a vote is elected chief of the island. The runner-up, Jack (Tom Chapin), the head of a choir group, is assigned alongside his friends to hunt and protect the other children. Other characters include Piggy (Hugh Edwards), a smart but chubby kid with a large pair of glasses, and Simon (Tom Gaman), a tranquil and calm boy hopeful for the future of the island’s inhabitants. But plagued by fear, superstition, and growing concern, the boys drive themselves slowly away from civilized beings to barbarians.

Under Brook’s course, Lord of the Flies maintains its surreal and darkness that made the book so memorable, but lacks the jolt of the book. As I said earlier, one of the film’s greatest issues is its cast. It’s harsh and a bit unfair to criticize children actors, but few provide the depth of their characters under Golding (though Chudin delivers the sheer arrogance and brutality of Jack). That alone prevents Flies from becoming the horror the book was, and Brook’s minimalistic direction isn’t well suited for the material. While Lord of the Flies isn’t by any means terrible, it’s a stiff adaptation of a classic novel.


  1. Stiff adaptation. Well said. I did like the close up of the pig on a stick. And the principal characters looked the part. The horror suggested on the screen can’t replicate the written form which is far superior. Good post.

    • Thanks. Yeah, fortunately Brook didn’t make the pig head talk, there’s no way to do that without entering self-parody. Overall, it’s no where near the high standards of the book.

  2. It’s been years since I’ve watched this. I can’t remember much about it in fact which probably says it all.

    • It’s not actually too different from the book but lacks the memorability of the novel. Too bad because there’s probably a great adaptation of Lord of the Flies that could be made.

  3. I could not agree more! The book is one of my favorites, and I found the movie to be a massive disappointment. One of the things you didn’t mention that seemed particularly damaging to me was that the kid who played Piggy (Hugh Edwards, I believe?) seems mentally slow (or, at least, not swift at all) and his acting was stiff whereas Piggy in the novel was the book’s moral center. Not only that, but he was the smartest kid on the island. I don’t really fault the child actor for this, nor do I think he was ‘slow’ or ‘stupid,’ but I do think his acting was hesitant and affected. Also, the artfulness of the film could not top William Golding’s beautiful writing.

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