Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Brotherhood of the Wolf

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF

8/10

Le Pacte des Loups : France 2001
director : Christophe Gans
script : Gans, Stephane Cabel (story and dialogue: Cabel)
cinematography : Dan Laustsen
editing : David Wu, Sebastien Prangere
music : Joseph Lo Duca
lead actors : Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Mark Dacascos, Emilie Dequenne
143 minutes

Tim Burton, eat your heart out Brotherhood of the Wolf is everything Sleepy Hollow wanted to be but somehow wasnt: a thunderously entertaining, powerfully atmospheric thriller with blood-spattered supernatural overtones. Even the plots are similar: in the late 18th century, scientist De Fronsac (Bihan) arrives in a remote rural backwater to investigate a series of bloody murders. Local superstition blames a mysterious, rarely-glimpsed beast, but the hyper-rational De Fronsac suspects a more earthly explanation. As he sets about nailing his prey, aided by acrobatic Native American warrior Mani (Dacascos), he’s distracted by the charms of a comely aristocrat (Dequenne, Cannes prizewinner for Rosetta) – much to the chagrin of her snooty, one-armed brother (Cassel)

Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of the most expensive French productions ever, and every centime is up there on the screen: director Gans fuses the kick-ass combat of Crouching Tiger, the damp poetic landscapes of Manns Last of the Mohicans, the dangerous-fairytale ambience of Company of Wolves and the costumed intrigues of Dangerous Liaisons. Older viewers may be reminded of a Hammer flop from the mid-70s, Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, which strained towards a very similar blend of comic-book action and horror-tinged suspense Kronos star Horst Janson even looks like Brotherhoods blond, genial Le Bihan.But Brotherhood (at least) matches all of its predecessors: Gans has a real flair with his prowling camera, and each of the beasts attacks is a directorial tour de force, gradually unveiling more and more of this remarkable monster.

While Sleepy Hollow was really no more than an elaborate boo, Brotherhood has much wider ambitions political, social, historical, anthropological and it pretty much fulfils them all, providing a far-fetched but scarily plausible explanation for one of Frances darkest historical enigmas. Its the same myth that inspired Walerian Borowczyks recently-reissued art-porn classic of the mid-70s, The Beast, though Gans testosterone-charged approach is much more accessible to general audiences. Not that many people will get the chance to find out: Brotherhood arrives with much less fanfare than its cutesy compatriot, Amelie. And that’s a real dommage just because this is one of the years most enjoyable movies, that doesn’t mean it isn’t also one of the very best.

11th October, 2001
(seen Oct-7-01, UGC Parrs Wood, Manchester)

by Neil Young