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Brotherhood of the Wolf


Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

In the year when Amelie brought French films out of the art-house circuit and into the mainstream, another, even more audacious Gaelic offering somehow managed to slip under the radar. By definition, Brotherhood of the Wolf should have had a crossover appeal as great, if not greater than the aforementioned, idiosyncratic sugary comedy. With its seamless mixing of horror, martial arts, period drama and religious-political historical insight, this is a crowd-pleasing classic of the highest order.

A man-eating beast is terrorising the French rural provinces, and a two-man team has been sent from the Royal Court in Paris to investigate. As the murders mount up, and as the villages close ranks in fear, it becomes apparent that there is far more afoot than a simple monster-hunt, and that the lives of everyone involved are in grave danger.

To be fair, the plot of Brotherhood of the Wolf is rather complex, and does require some degree of concentration. However, even if you lose track of exactly what's going on, there is constantly something to divert your attention. From the opening scene, in which a nubile French maid is hunted down and ripped apart by the unseen Wolf-Monster, to the ultra-stylised martial arts fight in the rain that introduces the main characters, there is a constant abundance of style that makes the film an absolute joy to watch. The performances are top-notch, especially Mark Dacascos as the silent, deadly American Native who accompanies his Parisian master on the quest for the facts behind the events.

Although Brotherhood of the Wolf is an extremely violent film, the violence on display is so aesthetic as to be relegated almost to the realms of pure fantasy. It is, however, unjustifiable to pass off the whole film in this way. Although the fantasy elements are often at the forefront, the film also brings a depth of seriousness that is somewhat unexpected, but thoroughly welcome. We see French provincial life as it really was in the Dark Ages of the 1700s - the peasants are oppressed, living in fear of the nobles and, crucially, the Church. These issues are not skirted by the script, as they so easily could be, but instead serve to make the film an even more perfectly rounded cinematic experience.

Brotherhood of the Wolf could be the most exhilarating two-and-a-half hours you will ever spend in the cinema. It may well be the most entertaining. Whatever, you won't have seen anything quite like it. An absolute must-see, and one of the most incredible films of the 21st Century.

Greg Taylor

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Screenings of this film:

2001/2002 Summer Term (35mm)