Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies (1963) dir. Peter Brook

Of all the films on my 45.1 Essential Dystopias list, Lord of the Flies is among the closest to what I consider a perfect dystopia.

Lord of the Flies is a rebuke to Rosseau and anarchy, but it is no paean to civilization.  Peter Brook’s 1963 adaptation brings this into further clarity.

The opening credits use photos of nuclear missiles, and the film omits sidebars such as Roger’s early inability to toss rocks at other boys.

I believed that the reason for translating Golding’s very complete masterpiece into another form in the first place was that although the cinema lessens the magic, it introduces evidence.

The book is a beautiful fable—so beautiful that it can be refuted as a trick of compelling poetic style. In the film no one can attribute the looks and gestures to tricks of direction. The violent gestures, the look of greed, and the faces of experience are all real. – Peter Brook

Lord of the Flies is largely an anti-utopia, with its target being the 1857 adventure novel The Coral Island, referenced itself in the text.  The ability of boys to live among each other peacefully may have seemed somewhat realistic during Pax Britannica.  The 20th Century however, demonstrated that even Piggy has a heart of darkness.  What else but Western empiricism could produce Marxism, Zyklon-B and the hydrogen bomb?

…adult life appears, dignified and capable, but in reality enmeshed in the same evil as the symbolic life of the children on the island.  The officer, having interrupted a man-hunt, prepares to take the children off the island in a cruiser which will presently be hunting its enemy in the same implacable way.  And who will rescue the adult and his cruiser? – William Golding

Lord of the Flies is the 7th entry in my 45.1 Essential Dystopias list.

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About Adam Call Roberts

I live and work in the beautiful Ozarks of Northwest Arkansas. I have a 1-year-old son who, right now, loves "big trucks" and Elmo more than anything in the world. I'm counting down through the list of 1,000 Greatest Films. Follow my journey here. I'm also a genealogy buff, and I blog about my family history.
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