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Le Pacte Des Loups (The Brotherhood Of The Wolf)

01/12/2001. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy The Brotherhood Of The Wolf in the USA - or Buy The Brotherhood Of The Wolf in the UK

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A strange and fearsome beast is preying on the peasants of the Gevaudan region of France.

CAPSULE: A strange and fearsome beast is preying on the peasants of the Gevaudan region of France.

This is an extremely frustrating film that tries very hard to create a 1760s period feel and then scuttles it with anachronistic fighting techniques and 20th Century attitudes and values.

Mostly this is just a recombination of familiar elements.

Rating: 6 (0 to 10), +1 (-4 to +4)

For a long time starting in the 1970s popular filmmakers were avoiding making films set in historical periods.

The belief was apparently that people were not being taught history as well in schools and that the big money demographic as far as film audiences were concerned, that is teenage boys, did not know much about and hence could not identify with historical periods.

I think someone must have realized that most teenage boys do not know that much about Middle Earth either and that is not going to get in the way of LORD OF THE RINGS. So several adventure films will be coming out soon set in historical periods.

The problem is filmmakers realize that teenage boys still do not know much about those periods so while the films may use the periods as exotic settings, the films being set in these earlier times are not necessarily historically accurate.

A prime example is Christophe Gans's LE PACTE DES LOUPS which does a terrific job of recreating the look of 1760s France and then adds martial arts, what looks like wire-enhanced acrobatics, and characters with 21st century values.

Some twenty-five years before the French Revolution, which would bring upheaval to all of the country, a beast has come to the rural Gevaudan region of France.

Over the course of three years it has killed one hundred women and children. To clear things up Louis XV sends Fronsac, an ex-military naturalist. With Fronsac comes his faithful American Indian equal Mani, a great kickboxer and a noble savage who happens to follow Fronsac around.

From the beginning of his visit Fronsac and Mani are embroiled in local conflicts. Fronsac has his own ideas about the nature of this strange creature that has killed so many.

The trailer tries to present the impression this is a film in the vein of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF. Perhaps that done with this level of production values could have been a fresh and effective film.

In fact, it is more like a warmed-over Sherlock Holmes story done with some panache, but not enough to make it worthwhile. Initially the script generates some wonder at the nature of this strange beast but the writing soon proves to be a real disappointment.

The hero has 20th century thinking and values in spite of the 18th century look. The fight scenes do not help much either. The digital effects and what appears to be wirework do not help.

Fights are unrealistically staged with gangs of attackers conveniently coming on conveniently one at a time. Director Christophe Gans shares writing credits with Stephane Cabel. The editing is by David Wu who also edited THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, giving the viewer some idea what to expect from the fight scenes.

The film may be edited down from the 142-minute version playing at film festivals, which might be a bit long for subject matter.

There is the germ of a good idea here, but in the writing all sorts of commercial compromises were made to dumb the film down to make it play better with wider audiences. This is a film that looks a whole lot better than it sounds.

My advice to American viewers: just enjoy the art design and do not bother reading the subtitles. I give this film a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. One side note: in the beginning of the film JAWS we see a woman attacked near a buoy.

We do not see what is attacking her but she seems two or three times to be tugged back and forth like she is getting away and being pulled back. She is flopped around like a rag doll.

I was never sure what the shark was supposed to be doing that would create this back-and-forth motion. That scene is imitated on dry land toward the beginning of this film and that motion makes less sense on dry land.

In neither film when you see the creature is that movement repeated. It just does not seem that motion would result from the attack.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2001 Mark R. Leeper

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