Brotherhood of the Wolf
brotherhood of the wolf | christophe gans | stephanie cabel | samuel le bihan | mark dacascos | jeremie renier | action | adventure | drama | thriller | animal attack | france | cult | monica bellucci | history | vincent cassel | based on | true story | emilie dequenne
Film: Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le pacte des loups)
Director: Christophe Gans
Writer: Stéphane Cabel and Christophe Gans
Starring: Samuel Le Bihan, Mark Dacascos and Jérémie Renier
This film I never heard of until I started working my way through the Fangoria Top 300 horror films. I then watched it a second time as I wasn’t writing written reviews at the time. I’m now giving it a third watch as it is the last movie I need to see for 2001 as part of the People’s Council for the Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s over on The Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis here is in 18th-century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his Native American friend Mani (Mark Dacascos) are sent to the Gevaudan province at the king’s behest to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.
We begin with a man writing in a journal. We learn later this is Thomas d’Apcher (Jacques Perrin). He’s detailing the events of an important part of his life as French Revolution looms outside and he is telling us this story. We then go into the past.
We follow two men as they are riding on horseback. There is a Grégoire de Fronsac and Mani. Fronsac is a naturalist for the royal gardens. He’s commissioned by the King of France because there’s a mysterious beast that is killing the citizen in the Gevaudan province. Another reason is that he studied animals in New France where he befriended Mani. Being that he’s Native American, we get many references that he is a ward or a servant, but Fronsac corrects them that they’re brothers.
The two of them come up on an old man and a woman. They are being accosted and accused of stealing. Fronsac asks questions and it turns out the old man is a healer and helped the men’s horses. Now they’re refusing to pay. Fronsac and Mani stopped the beatings, Mani makes short work of them and give money to the old man for payment. The old man’s name is Jean Chastel (Philippe Nahon) and the woman is his daughter, going by La Bavarde (Virginie Darmon). She makes eyes at Mani.
They arrive in town and they meet with a young marquis of Thomas d’Apcher (Jérémie Renier) along with his father, Marquis d’Apcher (Hans Meyer). They also meet with those in charge of the town as well. There is Laffont (Bernard Farcy), Mme de Morangis (Edith Scob) and her husband the count of Morangis, Jean Yanne. We also have the duke of Moncan, played by Jean-Loup Wolff, Sardis (Jean-François Stévenin) who is a local priest and Maxime des Forêts (Nicolas Vaude). Also here is the son and daughter of the count and countess of Morangias. The son is Jean-François (Vincent Cassel). He’s a traveler as well as a hunter. A story is relayed how he visited Africa where he lost his right arm. A connection is made between him and Fronsac, who has wanted to go to at the time considered the dark continent due to lack of exploring. Jean-François’ sister is Marianne (Émilie Dequenne). Fronsac immediately takes a liking to her.
The man in charge of hunting down this beast is Capitaine Duhamel (Eric Pat). There have been more deaths since he has taken over and he is on the verge of being dismissed. It is thought to be a giant wolf that is doing these killings. It always seems to avoid men and only attacks women and children. A massive hunt is organized to hunt this beast down in the area. As it is organized, we see there’s a group joining that look like gypsies. Among them are Jean and La Bavarde. They don’t seem to like Mani. He fights them and wins, much to their displeasure.
There is another death and Fronsac measures the bite. He has never seen something this big and doesn’t think it is a wolf. He knows that they do not attack people unless they are rabid, but then it would have died out and this has been going on for a couple of years. The men in charge of this town don’t believe his findings. They kill of most of the wolves in the area, yet deaths keep happening.
During their time here, Fronsac continues to pursue Marianne, but Thomas takes him to a brothel where he’s introduced to Sylvia (Monica Bellucci). He becomes entranced with her and the two of them spend a lot of time together. She seems to know more than she lets on and she is always listening.
There is another death during a snowstorm. Mani finds the body and Fronsac checks it out. He finds a shard of metal, knowing that this beast isn’t natural. He knows it is something made of flesh and metal. The town doesn’t want to believe it, as that would mean that someone is behind this. Captaine Duhamel is relieved of his duties and the king sends Beauterne (Johan Leysen) to finish it. We see it is by any means necessary and he’s not really there to deal with the problem. There’s a much larger plot going on here and not everyone is as they seem. The truth behind this beast could be much more fantastic than we thought.
I do apologize for the extremely long recap here, but this movie runs almost 2 and half hours. We have a lot going on that I felt I needed to recap to convey what this movie is getting at here. I’m not going to lie, it is interesting watching this for a third time during all of the unrest that is going on in the United States at the moment. I say that as this movie has the backdrop in the beginning that Thomas is recounting events no one really knew about aside from him Fronsac and Marianne while The French Revolution is looming. I’m updating this review while there are protests going on in the US and we have political unrest.
That’s not where it stops though. While watching the movie, I always forget what the title it and that it plays into the reveal of the movie. I don’t want to spoil it, but it is interesting. I’ve read up some trivia about this movie and almost every character in it that is named, did exist during the time of Louis XV, except for Mani. There really was a ‘beast’ that was attacking this province in France during the era. Now from what I read, they believed it was a few different animals and not what we get here. I find this to be interesting that this movie is playing on the fact that this happened. There is the official record and Thomas is sharing the truth in his diary before he is unable. I really dig this aspect the more I’ve seen this.
The only thing that I will share is that we have one of my favorite aspects to horror, religious undertones. Sardis is very religious and he’s there, along with what he says is a spy from the Vatican that it is not a demon causing it. This is simpler times so they still believed there could be supernatural things at play. When we get to see what the beast is, I can see why they would think this. Even more so that it seems calculated in its attacks. The explanation is quite interesting for me. I’m not going to lie though, the first time I was seeing this, I had my thoughts it was going to be a werewolf. Part of that was I knew the lore of how the werewolf novel starts and it is pointed out that Jean-François, uses silver bullets. Fronsac asks if he does this thinking it is supernatural, but it is more that Jean-François is arrogant and wants those to know if he did the kill or not. This plays into the movie as well, which I’m a sucker for.
Something that I need to address is the racism in the movie. Unlike some of them, it doesn’t bother me as they’re supposed to be in the 1770s. There are a few times that insults are thrown toward Native Americans as well Black people. It is needed for what they’re getting at, but I do enjoy that this is supposed to be religious people that are saying this.
Not all in this movie works for me though. I hate to say this, but it really does run too long for my liking. I feel like this could be trimmed to 2 hours, maybe even a bit more to tighten it up. I believe my DVD might have the director’s cut, which could be the problem. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m there early to learn what the world we are working in, which it does an excellent job of feeling like the 1700s. I’m even there for the climax until the ending. There’s just a rough patch in the middle that I lose interest.
I would also have to say that the acting is good as well. Bihan works as our lead here. There’s a bit of arrogance about him that fits. He tends the royal garden, he knows his stuff and heck, he’s even a knight for what he did during the French and Indian War. I think it helps that he treats Mani as his equal. I do have a slight issue with his relationship with Sylvia, only because it makes him a bit of a womanizer. I can’t hold too much there though; it is more of the time period. Dacascos is great, but I don’t necessarily know if he fits. He’s supposed to be Native American, yet he’s fighting with martial arts. I can let this slide for the most part as they really showcase his skills. I like him in the movie. I was also glad to see the talented Cassel in this movie. He’s just a great character and he always gives off those evil vibes, even when we don’t necessarily know if that is really his character or not. Outside of that, Renier, Dequenne, Bellucci and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
The last thing that I wanted to go over here would be the effects. I’ve already said that the martial arts feel a bit out of place. There are some really good sequences there that I do enjoy, and I can see that they’re trying to pass it off as that Native Americans could fight similar. What I do have an issue with though are the CGI. The beast is pretty much all CGI and it doesn’t hold up. I think the blood and what we get aside from that works, that is practical. I just can’t do the computer effects. I’ve already said that the look and feel of the movie is on point as is the cinematography.
Now with that said, this movie is one that every time I see it, I need up liking it more. It is interesting that this movie is based in some historical facts and I did that. I don’t necessarily believe there was a cult like this. Could there be one? Absolutely and I find that to be interesting for this movie, especially since The Knights Templar also seem to be involved. The acting is also good across the board. I like some of the action sequences, but they do see to be out of place for the characters involved. It does run a bit too long though and the CGI doesn’t hold up. Aside from that, I think the soundtrack fits for what was needed. My rating has come up on this movie and I now feel this is a good movie. I have watched this in the native language of French with subtitles, but I do know there’s a dubbed version as well.
My Rating: 8 out of 10