I remember reading about Ralph, Piggy and the other boys lost on the island in William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies when I was a freshman in high school. While the writing was good, I didn’t particularly like the story showing how easily people revert to brutes. We may have seen the film, but I’m not sure.
A while back I ran across a cheap DVD of the Criterion Collection version of director Peter Brook’s 1963 The Lord of the Flies. It sat on my shelf till this week when as I avoided finishing my Government Documents’ paper. By now I’ve learned that Golding won the Nobel prize and I’ve seen and come to appreciate good filmmaking more so as you’d expect the experience was different, better.
While I still was horrified by the idea that two groups of English schoolboys get lost on a remote, uninhabited island and their fantasies about beasts and some desire for power warps them and turns them into brutes capable of murder and of denying responsibility for murder, I appreciated how naturally the boys acted and how hard it must have been to direct them. During filming Brooks had one camera man just take whatever shots he wanted. This decision turned out to be genius as that cameraman got dozens of small movements like when Piggy hesitates about getting into the water. His tentative steps back and forth weren’t directed or written, they were just real and true.
The DVD came with great bonus tracks including an interview with Golding, who rarely granted interviews. He explains how his parents were absolutely rational atheists and he came to see that that world view didn’t make sense. When WWII came, he fought and in the midst of the brutality and chaos he realized that the idea that if everyone’s educated and has enough to survive, and society embraced socialist values and forgot about religion, then all will be well, that we’d stop having wars. Golding found those ideas, which his father held to be wrong. The Lord of the Flies was an attempt, after three unsold novels, to illustrate how brutal we can all easily become. (Now The Lord of the Flies doesn’t perfectly argue against socialism or atheism, but those ideas prompted this story.)
I found the story captivating and may show it to one of my classes . . . if there’s time.