Peter Brook, Lord Of The Flies

Written by Joe D on October 21st, 2007


Peter Brook directs a young amateur

This masterpiece is another film I was exposed to at a young age through the auspices of The Million Dollar Movie. It had to be fairly soon after it was released theatrically (1961) I think I first saw it around 1963 or ’64. It made an indelible impression on me, I can still remember vividly many scenes and I have not seen it since back then! I found a Life Magazine article about the making of the film and the images here are from that. crowd.jpg

Still Somewhat Civilized

A plane crash during a future nuclear war strands a group of English school boys on a deserted tropical island. All the adults are killed and the boys must fend for themselves. They start off by being democratic, electing a leader, setting up rules and regulations, it seems to be going well. There is an unforgettable image of a group of choirboys marching up the beach, single file, dressed in their choir robes singing a Latin hymn, Kyrie Eleision. This music is perfect, eerie and unsettling in this context. Needless to say as time passes and the school uniforms turn to rags the boys revert to primitive forms of existence. The choir boys become hunters and begin acting wild, like Pagans. They kill a wild boar, roast it, and devour it in an incredible scene. The eating of meat turns the boys even more wild, setting their bloodlust racing. They find a “monster” living on top of a nearby hill and begin worshipping it.

The boy playing Piggy had to keep stuffing himself between takes to remain big, he lost weight anyway

Eventually sacrificing a weak boy named Piggy. He is overweight and subject to much ridicule, the hunters take his glasses to start a fire thereby incapacitating him and finally they crush him with a huge rock, toppled from a sea cliff. It’s pretty horrible.

As the clothes disappear so does the morality

My hat is off to Peter Brook, he took amateur boys, some as young as 7 years old to an island for 3 months and created this whole brave new world, it’s nothing short of a miracle. The images and performances are absolutely superb.leaf.jpg

Peter Brook, maestro of theater, hand picked these boys and engaged in a bit of make-believe, play infused with ritual, the basis of all theater, cinema, art. A raw and savage creation, bursting at the seams with vitality, life force, nature. tom.jpg

Ralph, the duly elected leader is hunted like an animal by the film’s end

Lord Of The Flies was based on a book by William Golding. The article tells of the book’s history. It’s fascinating. The book was first published in the USA in 1955. It was a flop, all but ignored. The filmmakers went into pre-production in 1959 before the 1959 Capricorn paperback was issued. This paperback edition became a college campus bestseller, usurping Catcher In The Rye. How did the producer’s know this would happen? They didn’t. Film is a commercial medium, to be a success without major stars, a film must catch a cultural wave and ride it to popularity. Maybe they sensed the spirit of change, of youthful rebellion in the air.

College campuses were influenced by the Beats, the Summer Of Love was nearing. The Vietnam War was heating up. Lewis Allen, Peter Brook and William Golding were in the right place at the right time. Below is a video someone posted on YouTube, It has music by Erik Satie and images from the film. Check it out, you’ll feel the primordial power of this film. Then rent it or buy it, but see it.