William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is a tale of tragedy and conflict within society. It tells the story of a group of schoolboys, evacuated from England because of a war, who have crash-landed, without any adults, on a tropical island. It shows how they set up a kind of society and how it breaks down and leads to great tragedy. This book was made into a film in 1963 by Peter Brook.
The author goes straight into the story by describing a boy, Ralph, as he comes out of the jungle meeting up with another boy, Piggy. The director of the film however starts with a series of still pictures showing what has happened before these boys have crash landed on the island. The pictures are of school life- there are children in a lesson, the sound of a school bell can be heard and a teacher speaking Latin. There is also a group of choirboys singing and cricket is being played. This all makes it seem very English and civilised. Then this mood changes. It goes into a war mode and pictures of warplanes, evacuation boards, schoolchildren and explosions can be seen. Throughout all this the beat of a drum is heard, to hint at something tribal and uncivilised. All this stops abruptly and goes into the story as written in the book. The film sequence begins with a long shot of the island. You see Ralph in a mid shot running through the creepers. You then hear Piggy shouting to Ralph to wait up for him.
Both book and film tell us that the boys come from an English middleclass background and have survived a plane crash, however Golding introduces the ideas gradually, throughout the first chapter. He describes Ralph taking off his school uniform and pulling up his stockings, making “the jungle seem… like the Home Counties.” Piggy is very concerned about the crash:
“”All them other kids,” the fat boy went on. “Some of them must have got out.””
The director of the film however, introduces this information all in one go. In a film you can’t so easily read between the lines. The film has to move more quickly.
In the film there are a few places in which the camera movements are not done very well. The camera moves onto a few people and it stays too long on those people. The acting of the main characters and the supporting ones is quite good, but it is not so good with everyone else. When the choir were giving out their names, they looked into the camera and waited for a while. This made it look like they were reading from a card or screen behind the camera. (This was made very obvious by the actors, who as children, were probably very inexperienced.)
The author goes into Simon’s death by showing him as the beast, from the point of view of one of the other boys. They see him as a beast, because they are emotionally quite excited at this moment in the book:
“Even in the rain they could see how small a beast it was; and already its blood was staining the sand.”
This shows that, even though they could see that this thing was too small to be a beast, they still didn’t recognise him. The book makes this clear, because it describes the incident from the point of view of one of the hunters who mistakes Simon for the beast, creeping out from the dark jungle. The director of the film also makes an attempt to make Simon seem like the beast, but fails. The camera moves to a mid shot of Simon walking through the bushes. This is meant to look like the beast, but it is clearly Simon.
The camera movements and lighting effects, which are too bright, make it obvious that Simon is not a beast. You then see a close-mid shot of the other boys, with one particular boy in the middle shouting, “The beast! The beast!” and pointing at Simon. Only at this point in the film, do we understand that Simon has been mistaken for the beast. The camera then switches to a point of view shot looking from Simon’s eyes, from which you can see and hear the boys running, screaming and shouting towards Simon, with their spears in the air. Throughout all this you can hear Simon screaming in fear and pain. The lighting used is natural and in this case comes from the fire. This means that the whole concept of Simon being killed and how it is done is just as successful in the film as it is in Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
After Simon is killed his body is swept out to sea. In the book, it is described as everyone gathering around the dead body and it slowly drifting out to sea. In the film however the dead body is not shown at all and after the killing a view of the sea can be seen immediately, the screen then fades-out and this ends the scene. I think that Simon’s dead body was not shown, because it would be too horrifying and disturbing to see a child’s dead body which had been stabbed by a group of children. The dead body drifting out to sea was also not shown, because it would not be possible to have a child drift out into the water for a long period of time, and still make it look realistic. I think that the director should have used a dummy and a long shot, for the scene of the body out at sea.
The author builds up to Piggy’s death with him talking to Jack’s tribe, trying to reason with them, trying to get them to stop acting like savages and to join Ralph and himself. We then read about Roger holding a lever, getting ready to drop a large rock on Piggy and Ralph. Then Jack starts shouting over Ralph and Piggy. Roger puts all his weight on the lever and so the rock falls on top of Piggy and kills him. The book says that the conch shell breaks into a thousand pieces, when Piggy is killed.
In the film, the director builds to this event, with Piggy talking to the savages and trying to reason with them. The camera then switches to a mid shot of Roger and the lever, with the rock next to him, looking like he’s just about to push it down and kill Piggy. Then a close-mid shot of Piggy is seen while he is talking to the tribe, when, immediately afterwards we see Roger push the lever. A mid shot of the rock tumbling down the cliff towards Piggy follows. The next thing we see is a point of view shot from Piggy’s eyes, we hear a scream, which is cut short, and the screen then goes black. We see Ralph come out from the shadows, with a horrified look and shout “Piggy!” This is then followed by Piggy’s body, in a mid shot, on a rock next to the sea; the tide comes up and washes his body out to sea.
We do not see the conch shell at all from the point of Piggy’s death onwards, so we must assume that it has gone with Piggy out to sea. Due to the fact that there is no colour used here, the significance of the rock being red is not seen. I think that the director has not shown the conch being smashed into a lot of pieces because the cost of smashing a valuable shell would be quite great.
The film, on the whole, followed the story quite accurately although there were a few, not very important parts that were missed out. The film was less confusing than the book because, for the film, sounds and visuals were available. However, the film did make particular points confusing and unrealistic, partly because of the need to use young actors. I feel that most of the mistakes were due to bad cameramen or inexperienced actors. I overcame my prejudices of the film being a bit dull and old-fashioned, because it was in black and white, and I got carried away with the story. I enjoyed watching the film the first time, but it wasn’t until afterwards, when I thought about it, that I missed the special effects and colour that is available in modern films. The film director has made a good film adaptation of William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” based on the difficulties of making a film from a novel and I was quite satisfied with it.