In this essay I am going to look at the two opening credit sequences of the two Lord of the Flies films and give my opinion on the effect that each procedure gives.
The film adaptation of William Golding’s classic moral parable by Peter Brook has been praised as a rare instance in which the movie is better than the book, whether this is true or not is a matter of opinion. Shot in black and white the stark images add depth and weight to what is a chilling study of the suggested inherent or innate defects of society and man.
The film was released in 1963 as a PG, which was a very advantageous time to release the film. It was in the height of the cold war, when the film’s implications would have been most fully understood and the film although it was quite low budget would have had a lot of press interest which would have helped to promote it etc. In this version of Lord of the Flies Peter Brook performs his credit sequence using still photos but moving the camera. These photos are black and white. The credits lie over some of these images but not all.
The first photo is of a huge, old, very English boarding school and in the background there is the sound of a school bell ringing. It does not look like a public school as it looks like the pupils there would range from around seven to thirteen and there is a very authoritarian austere effect to this building which makes me think of an all boys strict preparatory school. This first clip sets the scene of school discipline, which is abolished later on in the film by the boys. Photos of young boys sitting at their single desks with inkwells, in their lessons, being dictated to by their teacher, follow this image of the outside main building. The teacher’s hollow voice dictating sounds very like a radio commentator, informing the people of what to do or how to evacuate in the case war…there is a sense of urgency in it.
The desks caught my eye as they reminded me of my own prep school experiences of old worn desks and how I was surprised that they still used the rickety, top opening, desks which had ink stains all over and notes scribbled from decades long gone. In this sequence you go from the silent classroom to the school dining hall at lunch, this is an overhead clip and you hear the raucous chatter and immense, deafening noise, the tables are long with teachers or older boys at the ends, thus suggesting and introducing the safe, enclosed environment which Ralph and Piggy long for later on in the film.
After the dining hall you move to an image of a choir singing in unison, this reminds me of the unity of the choir later on but here they are angelically singing where as later on they chant savagely. The angelic singing in unison is a perfect symbol of the discipline they have embodied and the level with which they have internalised it. The choir sing quite high however which shows that many of the boys must be relatively young because their voices have not broken yet.
The clips begin to cross cut with images of war. There is a photo of men or boys’ playing cricket and the spectators clapping, which quickly crosses to a photo of a huge intercontinental ballistic missile. It then goes back to the cricket match. A steady drumbeat begins as the main credits finish showing the savagery that the boys will turn to later on without the “grown ups”. This beat builds up as the credits progress. The images of the missile and the cricket match intercut more quickly until a kind of climax builds up as the drumbeat beats faster and stronger.
You are shown an image of a school black board with evacuation instructions written on it. Surrounding the blackboard are young smiling boys excited by the idea of going on a plane and the adventure that that entails. A map is displayed of the Pacific Ocean and it shows the destination for the evacuation on a specific tropical island. We are shown an image of a plane being escorted by an entourage of little fighter planes over Big Ben, a chilling show of the English security, and then there are images over vast Ocean.
This entourage gives a dramatic, intimidating effect, vividly depicting the transition of the children moving from their safe environment where they have the protection of adults to the savage unknown. An explosion is shown, presumably that of something happening to the plane as the plane then goes down but obviously lands safely enough for the boys to survive. Before the end of this sequence we are shown a group of wind swept palm trees on the seashore. The drum roll stops at the end of the credit sequence.
The still photos provide a back-story to the film, which the book does not include. The book starts with the plane crash as does the film but there is no “introduction” or explanation as to why a whole group of boys were on a plane with only one adult, the pilot. The back-story is of very English, “proper” schoolboys being evacuated but never actually reaching their proposed destination.
I shall now go on to analyse the opening credit sequence of the film Lord of the Flies directed by Harry Hook. This celluloid adaptation of the story is in colour, it is a restricted film in the U.S.A. It was released in 1990 which is a lot more recent than the Peter Brook film which means that the process of making and developing a film with special effects etc. would be a lot more advanced that twenty seven years previously.
The credit sequence is made up of moving pictures this time, but leaves more of the back story to the imagination as there is less explanation to the events taking place, the only information you are blatantly given is that this is a whole group of lost boys from some sort of American Military School.
The first thing that you see as the film begins is a blue back drop which could be interpreted as pretty much anything, but then a foot appears which is quite an alarming and surprising opening. Then the foot is revealed to be in water and to be an adults’ who is then rescued by a young boy, Ralph. The adult may be perceived as that of the pilot’s. The music gives the effect of an action opening sequence. The boys are public school cadets. In this credit sequence you see all of the boys together repeatedly and then in separate groups. This is a precursor of the later separation and division that occurs between the boys later on in the film. There is no actual suggestion of war in this sequence except for the fact that it is obvious that the boys are involved in some sort of military academy as they are all wearing uniforms and mention different ranks in the American military.
The boys are very vulnerable during the credit sequence as they are in an alien environment being on water. Someone shouts “Go get the raft!” so a few boys dive down to the wreck of the plane to get it and as the raft explodes on top of the water, it makes a dramatic entrance…i.e. it seems like a monster because of the musical build up to its emergence to the surface, and the images are shown from beneath the surface so you see lots of boys legs and this gives a predatorial feel, but it still seems as though its quite sudden the way that it pops up. The island in my mind is supposed to be paradisiacal but I think to portray the danger and fear it holds in this film it seems dark, scary and foreboding. The way that Harry Hook makes the island looks like this is that there is a dark silhouette of a volcano, dark clouds looming overhead and birds flocking from the trees, which gives a very threatening, suggestively dark effect. The boys however seem in shock as to the events that have happened to them in the past twenty-four hours and while they are in the raft paddling towards the island they look gormless. The music changes as the boys are drawn into the bay, to more persuasive, gentle and almost eerie rhythms, the boys begin to walk to the shore, as the water gets shallower. The bay appears safe the sound of music and the waves crashing against the beach are all that can be heard.
The way that Harry Hook has brought this aspect of fear and danger into the opening credit sequence establishes a threatening environment for the rest of the film. The credits themselves are shown on a black background, this may be for emphasis. Western folk music provides the background for the opening, it ranges in a mixture of folk, pixie sounding music, Celtic, tribal drums to medieval music. The way that Hook has given a varied array of music in this sequence gives the variation and transition that occurs throughout the film.
I preferred the Harry Hook opening credit sequence to the Peter Brook sequence as Hook left more of what was going on to the imagination. This un-explanatory method gives a more interesting, exciting view for what is to come in the rest of the film. The differences that struck me as the most effective are the use of colour and black and white as the stark black and white images of the earlier film give a more foreboding, chilling effect, where as the colour is more soothing and less unnerving. Also the still images of the Brook film are very quick and incomprehensible at times, whereas in the Hook film the moving pictures are as clear as they can be in portraying what is happening even though you are not told what is happening so blatantly.