To be certain, it’s not great that the non-Native American Dacascos was cast as Mani, but the actor has never been better than in Brotherhood of the Wolf, bringing a world of depth and wit to the mostly silent role. It also helps that the relationship between Mani and Fronsac is built on Dacascos and Le Bihan’s incredible charisma together. Fronsac called Mani his “brother,” and their performances, as well as the narrative, prove it. Honestly, all the actors are solid at the very least. None of the film’s other main characters are particularly inventive, and the actors portraying them could perform the roles in their sleep: Vincent Cassel as the increasingly deranged aristocrat/hunter Jean-François de Morangias; Émelie Dequenne as his ethereal sister and de Fronsac’s love interest Marianne; Bellucci as the enigmatic seductress Sylvia. But all of these actors are so talented that they’re compelling by default, and Brotherhood of the Wolf benefits immensely from them all.
The film also benefits from the fact that the Beast of Gévaudan was real. Whether it was an actual giant wolf or some other creature will always remain up for debate, but there really was something that killed people in 1760s France. It killed for sport instead of food, so vicious that its victims were frequently found beheaded, and so powerful that it could shrug off bullets. Without spoiling the film, Brotherhood of the Wolf is based on some real theories about the nature of the beast, including that someone purposefully created it and controlled it. There’s just enough reality inside the movie that Brotherhood’s wilder sequences feel satisfyingly grounded instead of totally ludicrous.
However, the film does need to come with a trigger warning: There’s a heavily implied rape scene, and there’s a long scene of regular wolves paying the price for the beast’s rampage, as they sadly did in reality. Mani is very much the “Magical Native American” trope, and you could argue Fronsac does some cultural appropriation later in the film. So there’s certainly no shame if you want to give Brotherhood of the Wolf a miss. But if you decide to check it out, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, genre-defying, and highly entertaining film that’s unlike any other movie you’ve ever seen. Unless there’s another historical epic/martial arts flick/conspiracy thriller/romance/mystery/monster movie I don’t know about.
Brotherhood of the Wolf is currently available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory (be warned, though, because the subtitles are impossibly bad—a big problem if you want to watch the movie in its native French language instead of dubbed in English).
Wondering where our RSS feed went? You can pick the new up one here.