Brotherhood of the Wolf
|Brotherhood of the Wolf|
US theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Christophe Gans|
|Narrated by||Jacques Perrin|
|Music by||Joseph LoDuca|
|Distributed by||Metropolitan Filmexport (France)|
Universal Pictures (United States)
|Box office||$70.7 million|
Brotherhood of the Wolf (French: Le Pacte des loups) is a 2001 French historical action horror film directed by Christophe Gans, co-written by Gans and Stéphane Cabel, and starring Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos, Émilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel. The story takes place in 18th century France, where the Chevalier de Fronsac and Mani of the Iroquois tribe are sent to investigate the mysterious slaughter of hundreds by an unknown creature in the province of Gévaudan.
The plot is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and the famous legend of the Beast of Gévaudan; parts of the film were shot at Château de Roquetaillade. The film has several extended swashbuckling fight scenes, with martial arts performances by the cast mixed in, making it unusual for a historical drama. The special effects for the creature are a combination of computer generated imagery, as well as puppetry and animatronics designed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.
The film received generally positive critical reviews, highlighting its high production values, cinematography, performances and Gans' atmospheric direction. At a $29 million budget, it was an international box office success, grossing over $70 million in worldwide theatrical release. The film also enjoyed commercial success in the United States; Universal Pictures paid $2 million to acquire the film's North American distribution rights and went on to gross $11.3 million in limited theatrical release, making it the second highest-grossing French-language film in the United States since 1980. The film also did brisk video and DVD sales in the United States.
During the French Revolution, Marquis d'Apcher writes his memoirs in his castle. He recounts to 1764, when a mysterious beast terrorized the province of Gévaudan. Grégoire de Fronsac, a knight and the royal naturalist of King Louis XV of France, and his Iroquois companion Mani, arrive to capture the beast. Fronsac grows to romance Marianne de Morangias, the daughter of a local count, whose brother, Jean-François, was also an avid hunter and a world traveler. Fronsac is also intrigued by Sylvia, an Italian courtesan at the local brothel.
While investigating another victim, Fronsac finds a fang made of steel. A traumatized child witness swears that the beast is controlled by what seems to be a human master. As the investigation proves unfruitful, the king's weapons master, Lord de Beauterne, arrives to put an end to the beast. However, he instead kills an ordinary wolf and tells Fronsac to taxidermy the corpse so it resembles the monster. Fronsac hesitantly does so, and the bogus wolf is sent back to Paris.
In Paris, the king's advisor shows Fronsac a copy of a book titled L'Édifiante. Fronsac realizes that the beast is actually an instrument of a secret society: The Brotherhood of the Wolf, which is working to undermine public confidence in the king and ultimately take over the country. Fronsac is told that "officially" the beast is dead, warned to stay silent, and bribed with a ship to Senegal. Back in Gévaudan, the attacks by the real beast continue. Ignoring his orders, Fronsac returns to Gévaudan to put an end to the beast's killings. At a secret rendezvous with Marianne, they are attacked by the beast, where it mysteriously refrains from attacking her.
Fronsac, Mani, and a young Marquis set out into the forest and set up an array of traps to capture the beast; it is severely injured but escapes. Mani sets off alone in pursuit, where he finds a catacomb used as the beast's holding pen, inhabited by the Brotherhood. Outnumbered, Mani is shot and killed. Fronsac discovers Mani's body and performs an autopsy, finding a silver bullet—Jean-François' signature choice of ammunition. In a fit of rage, a vengeful Fronsac goes to the catacombs and slaughters many members, but is overpowered by the local authorities and imprisoned.
Sylvia visits him in jail and reveals that she is a spy for the Vatican. She explains that Henri Sardis, the local priest and leader of the Brotherhood, believes that he is restoring worship of God to France. Pope Clement XIII has decided that Sardis is insane, and sent her to eliminate him. She then poisons Fronsac, saying he knows too much. Meanwhile, Jean-François comes to Marianne's room and reveals to her that he is the beast's master; it recognized his scent on her when it came near her, which is why it did not attack. He then rapes her when she rejects his advances of love.
Sylvia's agents exhume Fronsac, who had not been killed but merely put into a temporary coma, and he appears at one of the Brotherhood's sermons. He kills several members, including Jean-François. Sardis escapes into the mountains, but is mauled to death by a pack of wolves. Fronsac and Marquis go to the beast's lair, where it lays severely wounded. It turns out the beast was the last surviving offspring of a creature that Jean-François brought back from Africa, and was tortured into becoming vicious and dressed in metal armor plating and spikes. Fronsac takes pity and kills the beast in an act of mercy.
Marquis d'Apcher finishes writing his account, just before he is led to his execution by a revolutionary mob. He states that he does not know what happened to Fronsac and Marianne after the death of the beast; but he hopes that somewhere, they are happy together.
- Samuel Le Bihan as Knight Grégoire de Fronsac
- Vincent Cassel as Jean-François de Morangias
- Émilie Dequenne as Marianne de Morangias
- Monica Bellucci as Sylvia
- Jérémie Renier as Marquis Thomas d'Apcher
- Jacques Perrin as older Thomas d'Apcher / Narrator
- Mark Dacascos as Mani
- Jean Yanne as Count de Morangias
- Jean-François Stévenin as Father Henri Sardis
- Édith Scob as Countess Geneviève de Morangias
- Johan Leysen as Antoine de Beauterne
- Bernard Farcy as Intendant Pièrre-Jean Laffont
- Hans Meyer as Marquis d'Apcher
- Philippe Nahon as Jean Chastel
- Gaspard Ulliel as Louis
- Nicolas Vaude as Maxime des Forêts
- Virginie Darmon as La Bavarde
- Eric Prat as Captain Duhamel
- Jean-Loup Wolff as Duke Gontrand de Moncan
- Dee Bradley Baker as Beast vocal effects
Brotherhood of the Wolf garnered mostly positive reviews, with a 72% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 119 reviews with the consensus stating "Brotherhood of the Wolf mixes its genres with little logic, but the end result is wildly entertaining" whereas on Metacritic it accumulated a score of 57 from mixed reviews. The usage of various cinematographic techniques employed by Christoph Gans, the fight sequences, the atmosphere and particularly the performance of Marc Dacascos as the native-American Mani attracted particularly strong praise.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that this film is "entertaining" awarding it with a 3/4 star rating. Michael Atkinson of Village Voice wrote "It's easily the most disarming and inventive movie made for genre geeks in years." "To this day there is still a large fanbase gathering, with a plethora of parodies that have been made across the internet, a popular one being this YouTube video" Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News wrote that this film is "exciting, alluring and thrilling", whereas Empire gave the film a three star rating out of five stating that "An undeniably handsome creation, but its excessive length and surplus of directorial flourishes merely exacerbate the emptiness of an initially promising plot". Lisa from Variety gave a positive review mentioning that "a little Sergio Leone here, a little Sleepy Hollow there and, uh, martial arts-style confrontations are all deftly melded in Brotherhood of the Wolf, an attempt to elucidate the French urban legend of the Beast of Gevaudan. This is a home-grown French actioner that wears its sincere desire to entertain on its flamboyantly tailored sleeve".
The blend of various movie genres such as martial arts, mystery, costume drama and horror attracted certain amounts of criticism. In particular, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote "This new take on horror is more of the bloody same" whereas Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post said that it is "a mad agglomeration of styles and traditions that ultimately results in nothing so much as a mad agglomeration of styles and traditions", ultimately awarding the film a 0.5/4 score.
There are three distinct and very different versions of the film:
- The original French/US theatrical cut, running 143 minutes (sometimes listed as 142 minutes).
- The UK cut, running 139 minutes, released on home video in the UK and Australia; in this version, all the scenes involving the Royal Hunter Beauterne are removed and some scenes from "Director's Cut" are added in.
- The "Director's Cut", running 150 minutes (sometimes listed as 152 minutes), released on home video in France and Canada in 2002, and later in the US and other territories.
In the United States, Universal Pictures originally released the 143 minute theatrical cut on DVD, on 1 October 2002. Focus Features released a two-disc special edition DVD containing the "Director's Cut" on 26 August 2008.
- 2001 Cabourg Romantic Film Festival: Best New Actress (Émilie Dequenne)
- 2001 Sitges Film Festival: Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film in Silver (Christophe Gans)
- 2002 César Awards: Best Costume Design (Dominique Borg)
- 2003 Home Entertainment Awards (held by Video Software Dealers Association): Foreign Language Title of the Year (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)
- 2001 European Film Awards: Best Director (Audience Award)-(Christophe Gans)
- 2002 International Horror Guild Award: Best Horror Film
- 2002 César Awards: Best Music Written for a Film (Joseph LoDuca), Best Production Design (Guy-Claude François), Best Sound (Cyril Holtz and Jean-Paul Mugel).
- 2002 Saturn Award: Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film, Best Costume (Dominique Borg), Best Director (Christophe Gans), Best Music (Joseph LoDuca), Best Special Effects (Arthur Windus, Val Wardlaw, Hal Bertram, Nick Drew and Seb Caudron), Best Supporting Actor (Mark Dacascos), Best Supporting Actress (Monica Bellucci), Best Writing (Stéphane Cabel and Christophe Gans).
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- "Brotherhood of the Wolf". Amazon.com. 1 October 2002.
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- Entertainment Editors (29 July 2003). "20 Video and Video Game Titles Are Honored with 2003 Home Entertainment Awards; Winners Demonstrate the Diversity of Home Video Entertainment". The Free Library (from Business Wire). Farlex, Inc. Retrieved 23 August 2012.