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Lord Of The Flies
cast: James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards, Roger Elwin, and Tom Gaman

director: Peter Brook

87 minutes (PG) 1963
Second Sight DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
Most of us know this brilliant, simply written yet heavily allegorical novel from being forced to read it at school, but some of us were lucky enough to have had the reading experience supplemented by a showing of this first film version. I remember a draughty school hall, an old-fashioned 13mm projector, boys giggling in the back row, drawn curtains, and a sense of excitement that these days it's impossible to create. I loved the film then. Now, I'm more realistic as to its shortcomings, but still there's something about the stark cinematography of Tom Hollyman that brings out the horror inherent in the material as well as the poetic beauty of its pared-down storyline.

The plot is simplicity itself: during a wartime evacuation, a plane full of English schoolboys crashes on an uninhabited island somewhere in the South Pacific. These schoolboys splinter into two rival factions - the hunters, lead by choirmaster Jack (Tom Chapin) and the rest of the group, led by Ralph (James Aubrey). The initial harmony between the two tribes is shaken when a terrifying 'beast' is discovered on the island, and the constant presence of Piggy (Hugh Edwards), the overweight bespectacled conscience of the group, soon sets the tribes against each other, with tragic results.

Former stage director Peter Brook took a huge risk using a cast of unknown children to bring William Golding's classic story to the screen. The risk more or less paid off, but some of the acting does occasionally detract from the plot. However, the leads are all quite amazing in their unbridled capacity to bring a kid of honesty to the parts they play. Hugh Edwards in particular displays talent beyond his years as the bullied Piggy. He is at once wheedling, pathetic, and profoundly, sadly correct in his insistence that certain rules and ethics must be followed lest the boys descend into savagery... as they inevitably do.

Some of the early scenes retain a raw power that is almost frightening. Particularly when we get our first sight of Jack and his choir marching across the beach after the crash dressed in their black capes and singing Kyrie Eleison at the top of their lungs. One shot featuring the drowned body of a boy rolling slowly through sun-dappled waters is the stuff of nightmare. And when Simon, the representation of rationality, discovers that the 'beast' is simply what hides in all of us, the film embraces the elements of parable and takes on an even stronger tone of mysticism.

Some of the editing is choppy, which gives a feeling of things being rushed, and one or two of the child performers just aren't up to the task, but what remains here is a haunting, poetic, moving adaptation of a literary masterpiece that amounts to a truly sobering cinematic experience.

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