“Lord of the Flies” is Peter Brook’s adaptation of William Golding’s famous novel. The opening series of grainy black-and-white still photography is not actually in the book but Peter Brook includes it as background information explaining to an audience who may not have read the book why the boys ended up alone on the island. A plane carrying English primary school boys has crashed on an uninhabited Pacific Island. With all the adults killed, the boys must fend for themselves.
The scene opens with the sound of the rising bell and a water colour of a public school in the country. This creates the impression that these are English boys from middle or upper class backgrounds who go to an expensive public school in the countryside. With the bell ringing in the background it sets the impression that these boys have a very routine and normal public school life, a million miles away from what they are about to be submerged into.
After this there is a school photo of the teachers and the pupils all looking content and civilised, again showing what a happy and carefree childhood they all have, but also how they always had an adult nearby to watch on them, emphasising what a shock it will be when they are stuck on the island without an adult in sight. The camera slowly moves in making us feel as if we are looking around their school. This is followed by a photograph of students at desks in big school with the sound of a teacher reciting Latin faintly highlighting what a dramatic transformation they are about to go through in their descent into savagery. In the background, the camera moves down the room, first from one direction so we can see the back of the boys’ heads and then the other so we can see their faces. This use of filming is clever as you forget that it is a still picture and are tricked into thinking it is filming.
Peter Brook chose to use black and white rather than colour because especially in the opening scene it sets more of a realistic wartime film. It gives the scene a somewhat cold and remote feeling. The next shot is of dining hall with the sound of young voices chatting happily. At this point the camera slowly moves upward to a window at the top of a room through which light is streaming. The way the camera is moving upwards towards the light looks as if it is moving up to heaven and feels very religious and at this point the image fades out to a line of choristers and the sound of their voices singing a Christian anthem. This is once again highlights what a far cry their behaviour is from the unchristian acts they will shortly commit. The camera slowly pans along the line of boys, so we can take each of them in. Again the fact that the camera is moving along a photograph gives the impression that you are walking along looking at the boys singing. The religious feeling is quite ironic considering what happens on the island. This is the end of the first sequence as we have uncovered every aspect of the school, physical, intellectual and spiritual.
Following on from this, there is a black and white shot of spectators at a cricket match, who are heard to be clapping. Suddenly we hear the faint sound of tribal drums, which gradually get louder and louder. The contrast between the civilised clapping and the savage tribal drums indicates that their relaxed and carefree world is about to be tipped upside down. The camera flicks away from the cricket match to photographs of nuclear missiles facing one way and then the other. The drumming continues to become louder, quicker and more intense, as the camera moves slowly up the photograph of an enormous rocket, making you feel as if it is not a still photo, but a moving image. The camera view of it makes you feel very small, compared to the enormous rocket.
We hear the chiming of Big Ben and see a picture of it that is tilted, as if it is falling over, which indicates the destruction of London. Following this the camera is zooming out from an evacuation sign, and a shot of boys looking naively happy, as if they do not realise that they are in the middle of a nuclear war. One of the boys is also holding a picture of an aeroplane, again showing how immature he is not realising the danger of the situation. After that there is a series of watercolours of planes and clouds, the camera moving over a cloudscape and map to create a sense of movement towards a destination in the Pacific. Suddenly in one shot lightning strikes the wing of a sketch of a plane, implying a crash; the camera cleverly twirls, again giving the effect of the plane spinning out of control and plummeting to the ground. The opening scene ends with a picture of the plane in a lagoon and of the tropical island. The background has been filled in and the moving pictures start up.
Peter Brooke successfully carries off using still, sometimes blurry black and white photos, or water colours, rather than what the audience would expect, moving in Technicolor, as was the norm at the time; it is very brave of him. His use of camera techniques such as panning, fading, flicking, zooming in, zooming out, camera angle and many more, manages to keep you interested. The fact that he uses black and white photos does make you feel it is more realistic and authentic. It also adds a sense of mystery and hints at the darkness looming ahead. He incorporates sound very effectively, like the tribal drums, which are quite a theatrical and dramatic contrast to the pleasant sounding choir boys, a contrast much like the one the boys undergo on the island. Peter Brooke’s opening scene is original, an interesting way of putting the background information across to the audience. He sets the scene for what is to come, while emphasising the dramatic change the boys go through to become the bloodthirsty savages that they are by the end of the novel.