How Does Peter Brook’s Film Adaptation Of The Book, Lord Of The Flies, Differ From The Modern Version? Essay
The novel, Lord Of The Flies, has been adapted for film twice, once by Peter Brook and his 1963 film adaptation and in 1990 by Harry Hook. The two films are, although based on the same book, entirely different. The obvious differences are the time in which they filmed, but there are more differences that allow the audience to, providing they have seen both films, interpret the book differently, perhaps because of the social change and advances in technology based on the years they were filmed.
Of the two, it is clear to see that Peter Brook’s interpretation is a more accurate version of the novel and is reputed to be an excellent reflection of the book. The film, captured in black and white, shows excellently the downward spiral in which the boys question their own sense of right and wrong. The film’s introduction is basic, just pictures with sound, however it shows a graphic representation of the ‘war’ the world has found itself in once again and the crash of the plane. When the film begins and we see Piggy and
Ralph crawling through the undergrowth, what can be noticed instantly is the fact that the camera angles play a large part in the film. This is in stark contrast to Harry Hook’s 1990 version, where we see, most importantly, a group of American schoolboys, who seem to belong to a military school, swim in from the wreckage of the plane, while pushing a raft ashore, with the wounded pilot inside. It is important to note, that while this may have provided a more realistic start to the film, it ruins the fact that they come together with the sound of the conch, something extremely symbolic in the book.
Moreover, the presence of an adult on the island effectively defeats the object of the books ideology – (children’s lack of authority with no adult presence). The filming of Brook’s version of the film could be described as amateurish, but this enhances the level of reality. The actors also, are non-professional providing a realistic, visceral effect. An interesting point is the way in which the cameras operated during filming. Brooks specifically used a type of lens which gave a ‘documentary’ feel to the film.
In places, the scenes was entirely unrehearsed, and over sixty hours of film was produced, much of it improvisation and, after the editing process, it was reduced to a ninety minute film. The young actors were encouraged to improvise, especially where in the story, not a lot was happening. This could have been necessary to captivate audiences, leading them to the climaxes of the film. This is evident in Piggy’s recount of the town of Camberley, where Peter Brooks just told Hugh Edwards to tell the small children a story.
Improvisation techniques are also evident in the ‘party’ scenes where Ralph, Piggy and others visit Jack and his ‘tribe’, just before Simon is murdered. Hook’s version is entirely different. The film feels artificial and has a ‘polished’ look. It is, like most modern films, rehearsed and therefore loses, perhaps, the charm and originality of Brook’s film. The filming does not play a part in Hook’s film as it did in Brook’s film and therefore only shows the events, rather than adding to them in a dramatic sense.
The film continues with the finding of the conch, and the surviving boys soon collect at the beach. Soon, the choir boys make their way across the beach, truthfully represented as in the book. The ethereal choral singing carries right on through the book and slowly becomes something evil and malevolent. A vote is taken and it is decided that Ralph should be chief – a strange name for a democratically elected leader. The system soon deteriorates with two main groups being formed – Jack and his hunters and Ralph with those who build shelters and keep the fire alight.
Jack and his hunters eventually kill a mother sow and leave its head on a stake as an offering for the beast. Simon, who follows them, becomes transfixed with the pig’s head. This scene is one of the main climaxes of the film. The way in which the scene is filmed is very clever for its time, and uses the technology available to portray this sinister scene. The way the camera zooms in on both Simon and the pig intensifies Simon’s realisation of the evil that has overcome the boys. However, this scene would seem strange to someone with no insight to the original story.
The close-up shots of the flies crawling over the pig’s head are also a major factor for the scene. There are also added sound effects, such as the drum roll and the eerie choral singing. However the most notable sound is the buzzing of the flies also grows louder, while there are shots of the island at sunset. The fly’s noise symbolises perfectly the decay of the island and its inhabitants. The main difference between this film adaptation and the book is that the pig does not speak. It could be argued that this is beneficial, as it would have made the scene too implausible.
On the other hand, the fact that the pig does not speak means that those who have not read the book might miss the meaning of the scene, and put it out of context, perhaps even portraying Simon as someone who is fascinated with death. This of course is certainly not the case. The main point of the scene is Simon’s realisation that the ‘Beast’ is actually the evil at the heart of Jack and his hunters. This is in contrast to Hook’s edition, where the scene is not focused on as being important, and only lasts for approximately a minute.
He travels down to the beach, after collapsing and witnesses the mad scene from afar. He sees all the boys, dancing and chanting like savages. In some ways, this scene is identical in both films. In Brook’s edition, the camera angles in this improvised scene are erratic and shaky. All music ceases when someone shouts and points in Simon’s direction and accuses him of being the beast. All the boys run after Simon and stab, bite, tear and hack him to death with their sticks.
His body floats out to see, in a symbolic crucifix position with the eerie choir music accompanying this sad scene. Whereas, in Hook’s edition the film is shot in slow motion, with punchy music playing in the background. The murder of Simon is also far more gory than its predecessor, with the absence of the crucifix position and the ethereal choral music that made the audience of the first film, aware of the crucial loss of a major character. The morning after produces some sort of repentance and realisation in both films.
In one of the two films rare similarities Jack is identified as being the source of the trouble, who, at least it appears, is indifferent to Simon’s death, as is his followers. By this time Ralph’s tribe is very small. Piggy’s glasses are stolen by Jack and his now painted gang. The movie ends with Ralph and Piggy going to demand for his glasses back. Piggy is crushed when a boulder is pushed onto him and Ralph narrowly escapes. This is also different in both films, and in a trend that continues throughout Hook’s film, events are seemingly judged by their cinematic worthiness rather than their faithfulness to the book.
This is evident especially at the beginning, with the plane crash and frantic struggle to the beach, and at the end, where the US Army come to rescue them all-reminiscent of the Americanization of the story, something which ruins the British charm of the film. Jack’s gang chase Ralph and even set a forest fire to try and kill him. Ralph soon runs into a military officer who has come to rescue them. This scene, in Brook’s edition, is particularly interesting in that the camera slowly looks at the adult from the crisp white shoes to his smart cap, portraying a ‘good’ person.
Ralph breaks down and weeps for the first time on the island. In Hook’s version, we see a mass of American soldiers, with boats and helicopters, with the officer Ralph meets as being an American, who, unlike in the book, questions them all. In both editions, although in Brook’s version rather than Hook’s the ending of the film is clever in that although they have finally got what they all wished for, they realise what they have actually done and are all ashamed be in front of adults, which is what they originally strived to be. The officer is oblivious to this, treating them all as innocent children, something they all are not.