The Peter Brook film made in 1963 in black and white about war-evacuated British schoolboys marooned on a desert island and their descent into evil. They victimize a fat kid they call “Piggy” and then turn on Ralph. They hunt him down until they are rescued.
It curiously replicates the faults of the book insofar as Golding tends not to go into details of desert island survival. Things get done as if out of cloth, and it is the same in the film, you only see instant results of actions. This just makes you think of the unseen film set adult supervision and handiwork, so it’s like being at Summerhill school where the kids are compelled to be themselves This also reminds me of those adult actors playing children in Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills, of course the dialogue is stilted and the children are awkward and you wonder what they would be like away from Peter Brooks’ supervision and William Golding’s agenda.
The black and white gives the film a contemporary Starbucks style of coffee house primitivism, the coral seems almost to be sculpted into totem heads and the tropical vegetation looks denser than it would be in colour! It’s as if this primeval anti-Eden had been given a Henry Moore workover in stone, bone, and wood. Given the very young age of the school children, I wonder how convincingly Golding’s concern about original sin and natural human depravity can be presented by what looks like a school outing gone a bit haywire. Jack is like Flashman from Tom Brown’s Schooldays, who comes into his own when fiendishly bullying Piggy’s plodding working class decency. This is well done as Piggy becomes the sacrificial victim of Jack’s venomous class malevolence. Ralph looks like a C.S.Lewis – Arthur Mee – Enid Blyton jobsworth of baffled Christian forthrightness, which is Brook’s intention. At times these three look like they’re playing up, as precociously as they can, to what adults expect of them in what looks like arthouse anthropology. Like the children in High Wind In Jamaica, this film is a corrective to the Swiss Family Robinson wholesomeness of Disney on a tropical island. It certainly influenced subsequent ‘serpent in paradise’ films like The Beach.
As for Simon, the schoolboy actor can’t be expected to bear the load of moral significance which the book gives him, he can only look like a sulky lad. As he stares at the pig’s head on a stick, he seems not to be confronting an hallucinatory scary symbol of evil but at a schoolboy prank gone wrong.
An occasionally exiting film (in spite of the arty flute music), but is not totally convincing.