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Commentary on Lord of the Flies Essay


In this second version of William Golding's novel, a group of cadets from an American military school are stranded on a desert island, along with the wounded pilot, after their plane crashes. Eventually the camp divides; Ralph (Getty) and Piggy (Pipoly) represent the values imposed by adults and civilisation; while they struggle to maintain a signal fire, Jack (Furrh) and his band of hunters, giving way to more primitive impulses, run rampage and turn murderous. The film, simplistically assuming the book's central metaphor to be imperialism - hence the military slant - retains the bare bones of Gollding's narrative, but that's all. There's little attempt to hint at the deeper issues, while the revelatory moment when the impaled pig's head looms in the clearing to reveal man's inner darkness, is merely flat.

It sounded like a recipe for vulgarity, if not outright disaster: Take William Golding's 1954 novel about a group of British schoolboys who descend into savagery when stranded on an uninhabited island and do a contemporary American update. The first surprise is that it works at all. The second surprise is that it works better than Peter Brook's 1963 English version did.

Brook's film, shot in black and white, had a rocky, ascetic plainness. Here, the English director Harry Hook (''The Kitchen Toto'') goes in the opposite direction: His island is an orgy of lush, towering greenery rendered in a swift yet luxurious hyperrealist camera style. For a while, the movie is stilted and unconvincing (in reaching the island, none of the prepubescent kids even cries). But then the drama begins to settle in.

From the outset, these rock-'em, sock-'em American kids are far cockier -- more casually amoral -- than Golding's genteel British schoolboys were. They're closer to their ids to begin with (even if they do resemble the junior division of the ''Dead Poets Society''). The solid, ingenuous Ralph (Balthazar Getty) now seems a bit of a stiff. He's right to want to keep the signal fire going, yet it's easy to see why the wild, irresponsible Jack (Chris Furrh, in a charged performance) commands respect. He's a strutting young narcissist, a party animal. Who needs adults when you have pigs to kill?

If Golding's novel about the Beast Within Us All remains a schoolroom perennial, that's probably because it's the first book most of us encounter that makes symbolism seem fun. Beneath all the pigheaded allegory, it's a damn good story, a yarn. Yet when you read it in the eighth grade, it also made you feel like an adult.

The symbolism is still too literary to translate well to the screen. Much of it seems hokey and anachronistic too -- especially the business with the conch and the entire character of Piggy (Danuel Pipoly), who comes off here as a big, blobby crybaby and hardly the representative voice of reason. Still, as staged by Hook, the story retains much of its fairy-tale power. As a novel, ''Lord of the Flies'' never was much more than a Brat Pack ''Heart of Darkness.'' It's doubtful a screen version could be any better than this one.

In Goldings novel, we hope against all hope that the protagonist Ralph will be able to survive and take the other good guys like the rational Piggy, the soulful Simon and the eager-to-please twins, SamnEric with him. We also hope against all hope that that mean rat-bastard Jack and his capo Roger will get whats coming to them. But a curious thing happens in this adaptation of the novel, as director Harry Hooks attitude seems to be reflective of the Reagan-Thatcher mindset that was dominant at the time, and many in the audience seem to be aligned with the evil Jack and Roger, and cheer each time one of the goodies is killed. This adaptation is far darker and more cynical than even Golding might have imagined possible. I wonder if Hook, like teachers around the world, was forced to read the book repeatedly. Could explain his pessimism.

Hook, who also edited the film, has no sense of pacing, so the film has no real build up. We just lurch and stumble from one minor explosion to the next, inevitably finding ourselves at the bloody climax. There is an awful lot of talk, talk, talk which can work well on the page (these boys really sound like British schoolboys in Goldings novel he has an ear for the way boys talk) but unless you have skilled actors, doesnt work so well onscreen. And Hook is not surrounded by great talent. Balthazar Getty as Ralph is essential to giving us something to pull for in this nasty business, but the lad, who has scant screen presence, is not up to the challenge.

When adapting a novel as successful as William Golding's Lord of the Flies to film, the director must take into account a number of factors. The theme of the novel must be illustrated within the film in order to be successful. Unfortunately director Harry Hook of the 1990 film Lord of the Flies failed to portray the true theme of the novel to the viewer. Hook did not accurately recreate several key scenes that develop the theme of innate evil in man. This is why the 1990 remake of Lord of the Flies failed at its attempt to bring William Golding's novel to life. The scenes which Hook failed to interpret successfully included Simon's discussion with the Lord of the Flies, the dead parachutist and the final rescue.

Simon's talk with the Lord of the Flies is the most frightening and crucial scene in the novel. Golding uses the conversation to lay out the theme of his allegory and begin exploring the boy's descent into savagery. Hook however chose not to include the scene in the movie which is a huge blow to the development of the story. All we see is a quick scene of Simon looking at the pigs head, which loses all of the symbolism and power the novel expresses. The pig's head is a symbol of the primitive nature the boy's are reverting back to with the killing of the sow. When Simon talks to the head he is really personifying the internal struggle within each boy turning the conversation into an archetypal battle between good and evil. Hook's choice not to include this scene is a huge blow to the film. The symbolism of the head is lost amongst the other disjointed scenes Hook through in at random points. Without this conversation the viewer does not recognize the true change the boys underwent.

One of the most chilling symbols in the novel is the dead parachutist. As things begin to grow wrong on the island Ralph keeps an everlasting hope in the power of the grownup's to make all right again. He cries out at one point "If only they could send us something grown-up a sign or something." A sign is sent to the island, in the form of a dead parachutist. The emotions of hopelessness and abandonment run high for the reader at this point, but fail to come through to the viewer. Hook replaces the parachutist with a cadet commander, totally changing the make up of the island. The main point of the novel is that with no adults or civilization the boys will disintegrate into evil. By there being an adult, and the viewer seeing his accidental murder the significance of the symbolism is

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