Lord of the Flies



In a remote mountain hideout, somewhere in Colombia, eight teenage guerrillas are killing time. They belong to some unspecified rebel organisation, and their main purpose is to watch over an American captive, referred to simply as Doctora (Julianne Nicholson). The youths all have the anonmity of nicknames and they pass the long hours playing bizarre sports, exercising, arguing, having sex and recklessly discharging semi-automatic weapons, in some cases with catastrophic results.

From time to time, The Messenger (Wilson Salazar) rides over the hill and puts these feral youngsters through the wringer, instructing them to work their bodies to the limits of their endurance, encouraging them to inform on each other in order to further exert his malign influence over them. We learn nothing about the organisation they work for – or even why Doctora is being held hostage in the first place – but strangely, this all serves to make writer/director Alejandro Landes’ story ever more mesmerising as it unfolds.

There’s so much to relish here: the stunning location cinematography, the raw performances from the young actors (particularly from Sofia Buenaventura as the conflicted ‘Rambo’) and the oppressive feel of the isolation the eight-strong team are forced to endure. Watching this is an ordeal, but in the best sense of the word.

In the second half, after a violent skirmish with Doctora’s would-be rescuers, the team take their captive into deep jungle, where she attempts to engineer an escape – and the film veers into action/adventure territory. There are breathless chases and dangerous plunges down wild river rapids, all of which keep me perched on the edge of my seat right up to the final shattering frame.

There are evident references to other stories here, most noteably to William Golding’s Lord of the Flies – indeed, one scene is a direct homage to it. There are other images that wouldn’t look out of place in Apocalypse Now or Aguirre: Wrath of God. But such comparisons can sometimes serve to diminish a film’s worth, and Monos is very much its own creature, a brilliant and intelligent meditation on the nature of indoctrination.

If you can see this on the big screen, so much the better. It’s a stunner.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Lord of the Flies



The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays

Lord of the Flies is one of my all time favourite novels, so I was excited to see this production, first shown in the open air at London’s Regent’s Park. How, I wondered, would director, Anthony Sheader, stage a story that is set in a variety of locations on a remote jungle-covered island? Well, as it turned out, quite brilliantly.

The set bears some description as it is instrumental to the success of this production. The stage is dominated by the fuselage of a crashed plane. One of its wings forms a ramp along which characters can enter and exit. The tailplane provides an upper level from which characters can stand to survey ‘the island.’ In the foreground, the detritus of the crash extends right to the feet of the audience in the front row of the stalls, almost including them in the scene. As the story unfolds, trapdoors are opened and closed to provide yet more levels in Souvenir Scenic’s ingenious set.

The script has cleverly updated the story to contemporary times – there are aborted selfie-stick moments, and even an allusion to a ‘new war’ from which the children were fleeing. Unlike the source novel, the pupils come from a variety of backgrounds – Jack and his choristers clearly hail from a top flight public school, Ralph from a mid range one and Piggy, a bluff Northerner, from a comprehensive. This all helps to emphasise the cruelty of the bullying suffered by Piggy and the other, weaker boys and makes their ultimate fate all the more compelling.

It’s pointless to single out individual actors for praise as this is a true ensemble piece, but plaudits must go to choreographer, Jonathan Holby, who manages to co-ordinate the movements of his large cast flawlessly, regularly cutting between normal speed and slo-motion to display simultaneous events. The final ‘hunting’ of Ralph, builds steadily to a thrilling climax and the sense of shame at the play’s conclusion is utterly heartbreaking.

This is a superb adaptation of a literary masterpiece. We saw it on it’s final date at the Lowry, but the show will be touring the country in 2016. If it lands anywhere near you, please ensure you grab the opportunity to see it. It’s too good to miss.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney