Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of my favorite movies, and I wanted to watch it again during my current research, though it’s not technically a werewolf movie. During the reign of King Louis XV, a small French village is terrorized by a wolflike creature, with steel fangs and a spiny back, that will eat man, woman, or child. Besides an army regiment, the king sends forth his naturalist Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), along with the man’s companion, an American Indian named Mani (Mark Dacascos). This all takes place before the French Revolution, but the conditions that lead to the revolution are played up in the movie.
The naturalist de Fronsac falls in quickly with the powerful and rich de Morangias family, enchanted by the young daughter Marianne (Émilie Dequenne) while equally repelled by her one-armed brother Jean-François (Vincent Cassel, who always plays such a good bad guy). Marianne is watched over carefully by the town’s priest Sardis, her chastity worth much money, and through the portrayal of female villagers, aristocracy, and prostitutes in Brotherhood of the Wolf, it’s shown that the value of women in eighteenth-century France is mainly as sexual creatures. The women that appear to have the most freedom during this time period are the prostitutes, and the unlikely person who possesses the most power in this movie is Sylvia (Monica Bellucci), an intriguing Mary Magdalene character, who holds the key to all the secrets.
Despite all of the political, religious, and social maneuvering, the movie is not boring, and where the Brotherhood of the Wolf succeeds best, in my opinion, is in its violence, its lovely, beautiful violence. The harsh rural countryside is shown as the arena, and when the "wolf" hunts, action is shown through both its eyes and the omnipotent eye: jittery, bloody scenes, where the human is hunted and humbled. The violence serves a purpose like in Flannery O’Connor’s work–it is used to bring the villagers closer to the unexplainable, the mystical, or God.
The wolves are treated callously by the villagers in Brotherhood of the Wolf; they are vilified and slaughtered, seen as something evil. But in the cinematography and through the recurring white wolf motif, the director portrays wolves as majestic, mystical creatures–they are leaders, seers.
I think that is what I’ll take from this movie–the idea of wolves as noble animals.