William Golding's classic parable of the pitfalls of a burgeoning society is one of those stories that will live on as a literary classic, perpetually being read by high school English students (that is until a later generation takes over teaching duties and starts assigning "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games"). It's a perfectly contained fable about a group of British school kids who find themselves stranded on an island after surviving a plane crash. Now they have choices to make as they learn to survive in this harsh, unforgiving new world.
Peter Brook's film adaption of Golding's novel is definitely rough around the edges. It's almost filmed mockumentary style, without many cuts, as though we're simply observing a scientific experiment rather than watching a plot unfold. Brook's minimalist style aides the underlying themes of Golding's story. Without much fanfare we're allowed to comprehend exactly what is happening to these young kids.
After the plane crash, the kids soon find that choosing sides is a necessity. The democratically civilized follow Jack as he tries his best to set up rules, laws, and a crude government that will help them survive until they're rescued. A militant band of nefarious spear chuckers doesn't agree with the way Jack (Tom Chapin) is handling leadership duties. Ralph (James Aubrey) rises up as a warlord of sorts. He encourages his band to paint their faces, hunt down wild boar, and relentlessly poke fun at a kid named Piggy (Hugh Edwards).
Things quickly devolve on the island as Ralph's animosity for Jack's overly kind ways grows. There's something eternally truthful about the way this story plays out – which is a big part of its classic status. The way that people's basest of emotions and instincts will take over in extreme times. Jack's innate leadership was no match for the screaming, spear-throwing Ralph. Jack's benign ways of settling disputes (pass the conch) soon become difficult to conduct as Ralph and his posse become eager to possess the thoughts and feelings of every kid on the island. If there's something they don't like – Piggy for example – then getting rid of it is always an option.
Nowadays we need brutal violence and big-budget dystopian futures to explain what 'The Lord of the Flies' did so simply and beautifully. There is good and bad in everyone. When push comes to shove which one is going to emerge? Which one will a person ultimately become?
In my opinion Brooks, with his raw filmmaking, captured a story that accurately reflects the turmoil and terror in Golding's novel. He understands what makes Ralph and Jack tick and is able to show us not on through dialogue, but through silent moments as well. There are moments where Jack quietly contemplates and we can see, by the look on his face, that he's troubled by the way things are working out. In contrast, Ralph's facial expressions become more hardened as the story moves along. He becomes angrier. His brow furrows, his smile turns into a menacing grimace. He's no longer a pious looking choir boy. Essentially, he's exactly what he's always wanted to be. A person that was being held in check by society back home.
'Lord of the Flies' will remain a classic tale. Hopefully, people will continue to read Golding's novel and glean from it the lessons that it teaches. Brook's film is also a great way to get to know the story. The two of them complement each other quite well.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Criterion edition of 'Lord of the Flies' comes in the standard clear Criterion Blu-ray keepcase. The movie has been pressed onto a 50GB Blu-ray Disc. Inside is a 28-page booklet that contains an essay entitled "Trouble in Paradise" by Geoffrey Macnab of Screen International. After that is an excerpt from Peter Brook's biography, "The Shifting Point," which discusses the making of 'Lord of the Flies.' There's a short description of the transfer and audio restorations. It also includes some stellar artwork. The spine number is 43.
According to the transfer notes in the booklet, Criterion gave 'Lord of the Flies' a new 4k digital transfer. Considering the movie's age and the source elements they were working with, the end result is pretty outstanding.
There are times that the 1080p, black and white picture has the clarity and depth of some of the best 'The Twilight Zone' Blu-ray transfers. Though, not all of the shots are picturesque. There are scenes that are soft and hazy, mixed in with the clear and concise. This is to be expected and forgiven, because on the whole 'Lord of the Flies' looks remarkable.
Blacks, for the most part, are sharp and inky providing great contrast against the whites. The gray areas are extremely strong adding some nice depth to the proceedings. Grain is pretty consistent throughout. There are some odd spikes here and there, but usually it appears very cinematic. Criterion has restored another movie to fine high-def form.
Many of the "problems" with the audio can be traced back to the source. Since the wind and water were so loud where they filmed the movie, much of the movie's dialogue had to be rerecorded later by the actors in a sound booth. Then the voices were dubbed in during post production. This causes some weird inflections, ill-timed lip syncs, and other strange anomalies.
With that said, the LPCM Mono track is as good as it can be considering. The dubbed dialogue is pretty clear throughout. There are a few times where voices get lost in all the commotion. The screams and hoots from Ralph's hunting party are sufficiently loud. Waves and wind are constantly drumming away. Everything is fighting in that one channel, yet there aren't many times where it feels muddled. Criterion has done a great job with a troubled source. This high-def track will likely please most fans.
Criterion collectors will surely be picking this one up. It's one of the more recognizable films in the Criterion collection given its source material. Brooks does an admirable job trying to encapsulate Golding's richly conceived parable. Criterion has done a great job restoring the video and audio to high-def standards. It's a must-own for collectors, that's true. For everyone else it's certainly recommended.