Often forgotten, Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies might not be a masterpiece, but it as an almost perfect adaptation that succeeds in representing many abstracts concepts films at the time were barely touching upon. Based on William Golding’s novel of the same name, Lord of the Flies explores nature v. nurture, human nature, savagery, and society as it depicts the unfolding events a group of kids undergo when trapped in a deserted island.
What truly stands out in this adaptation, is how similar it is to its source material. Scene to scene, Peter Brook basically replicates the book’s essence onto the screen to perfection. The scenery, characters, and props all capture the essence of Golding’s novel. Where things begin to go in their separate ways is in the depiction of the characters. Sure, the characters resemble those on screen, but the characters depicted by Brook are the diet versions of the one’s in the book. Obviously, the film doesn’t have as much time to delve into as deep characterization as the book does and ends up pulling off an adequate job, especially in the depiction of Jack and Ralph (savagery v. civilization).
The reason I can’t quite hail this as a masterwork is because of its pacing. The film starts off fast, it goes through the book’s events rather quickly, it introduces every important kid and rapidly adjoins them with a particular trait, Brook perfectly places you in the mindset of the children on this deserted island, then it stops. When I mean it stops, that’s because it doesn’t just slow down as it drives through a rough patch, Peter Brook’s fully hits the brakes and the film’s pacing is halted to a lethargic pace. Luckily, the film picks up again by the time The Lord of the Flies is introduced and then rides a triumphantly towards it gratifying finale.
Another admirable thing to take from this viewing experience is the way Brook directed an ensemble purely made up of children. The performances Brook brings out of each child is quite impressive, especially James Aubrey and Tom Chapin whom he doesn’t necessarily conduct as humans, but rather as symbolic entities.
With that said, Peter Brook’s Lord of the Flies is the best adaptation of Golding’s work there is and though it suffers from irritating pacing problems it succeeds in almost every other aspect. Brook does something very special via visual story-telling in which he almost gives a Malick-spin on The Lord of the Flies and directs Simon (Tom Gaman) as innocence instead of awkward, shy, innocent child. Peter Brook immerses you in this land away from society, depicts the novel’s concept as best as he can and even though he struggles with character-work and pacing, the film still ends up being a successful adaptation and a 73 out of 100.