Wednesday, February 18, 2009

LORD OF THE FLIES (Peter Brook, 1963, UK) A tiny island is indeed haunted by ghosts and monsters, and only a blood sacrifice can temporarily appease this beast: humanity. The film begins with static images of schoolchildren singing, their civilized and stoic countenances a cold war status quo; suddenly, the title sequence is cutaway to images of missiles and bombers squadrons, while a patriotic drumbeat begin the march to oblivion. A group of children survive a plane crash, imprisoned by the pounding surf and their own childish fears, and must learn to cope in a world without authority. The narrative concerns the two archetypal characters: Ralph, the younger boy who is democratically voted as leader, who holds in his hands the conch shell of law; and Jack, the Darwinian primate who revels in the primal urge to kill and devour, consumed with power. Then there is Piggy; whose broken glasses see clearly, his timid voice speaks reason, who becomes advisor to Ralph. But the rule of law quickly breaks down and the killing of Piggy is no more reprehensible than the slaughter of a wild pig. Director Peter Brook films in beautiful black and white, representational of the gradient morality tested upon this microcosm. There are a few wonderful compositions: Simon’s visage framed against the ominous sky, or his body washed away in black waters, and Brook utilizes a great tracking shot of Jack walking away from Ralph, his authority diminishing in deep focus. The actors are excellent as dialogue and body language seems natural and realistic, like typical children playing at being adult. The choir sings a Christian Hymn to silence the Dark Lord that possesses their souls, but they hide behind war paint and masks while rationalizing their atrocities. They are mimicking adult behavior, becoming men in a world at war, and their rescue shall only lead them into a macrocosm of destruction that can never be left behind. (B)

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