Monday, April 18, 2011

The Company of Wolves

Sarah Patterson
Who To Know
Neil Jordan................Director

Sarah Patterson.........Rosaleen
Angela Landsbury.....Granny
Micha Bergese..........Huntsman
David Warner...........Father
Tusse Silberg............Mother

The Story Goes...
We enter the dreams of a pubescent girl, Rosaleen, as she comes to terms with her sexuality, as well as her maturity. Inside her dreamworld she his constantly warned by her granny to beware of the beast that lives inside of all men, and to never leave the straight and narrow. Ultimately, after Rosaleen meets a suave huntsman, she must decide for herself whether or not her grandmother's warnings are true.

Granny warns Rosaleen about straying from the path.

My Thoughts
The recent release of Red Riding Hood brought renewed attention to the legend of Little Red Riding Hood. Though I didn't find the premise of this particular film to be all that intriguing, it did remind me of a film that I hadn't seen in years that was also based on the Little Red Riding Hood story called The Company of Wolves. I decided to give it another watch after all these years, and was just as pleased at this viewing as I was the first time that I saw it. This is a strange and surreal take on the classic tale that is loaded with symbolism that is sure to leave a lasting impression on fans of horror-fantasy.

I had first seen The Company of Wolves on Monster-vision with Joe Bob Briggs when I was a youngin', and I remember being somewhat blown away by the structure. This was a film that stuck with me because it was much stranger than the typical werewolf movie that I had seen up to that point, and I couldn't get past trying to decipher what all of the symbols meant. It was clear that sexual maturity was a theme, but figuring out all of the (sometimes confusing) symbolism is what makes films like this so interesting. Indeed, on first look it can appear that The Company of Wolves is a string of nonsensical scenes that are slapped together with little care, though the reality is that once the themes are understood, it is quite a compelling story that is incredible visually.

The tale of Little Red Riding Hood has been analyzed for a number of years, and one of the more popular analyses amongst many contemporary critics is that it represents the sexual awakening of a young girl who is maturing but is still innocent, as well as the dangers of the advances of those who are also aware of her maturity and naivety. Ultimately, this is the basis that writer Angela Carter used when she wrote the original short story of the same title. Likewise, sexuality has been a major theme in many of director Neil Jordan's popular films such as The Crying Game and Interview With the Vampire, and his vision flowed well with Carters story to create a very compelling film.

Rosaleen and Mother discuss the inner beast.
Granny has stern views of sex and the way that all men are, and she repeatedly attempts to instill these beliefs in Rosaleen. It's true that Granny does have influence in Rosaleen's views to a certain degree, but Rosaleen's Mother has conflicting views that also seem to make an impression on the girl. At one point Rosaleen sees her parents having sex and questions her mother about whether her father was hurting her mother during the activity. To which Mother replies "if there's a beast in men, it meets it's match in women too." Clearly the mother has a different and more sympathetic view of men than Granny. To Mother, power that lies in sex is shared by both men and women, and there is no victim during the act. As you could expect, all of these conflicting influences could be very confusing for a young girl. Sarah Patterson does a great job displaying the innocence, which really draws you in to her character.

The scenery is definitely fantastic, and a dreamlike feeling is held throughout. The bulk of the story takes place in a seemingly secluded mountain village that, due to the lack of direct sunlight, remains dark and somewhat claustrophobic. Perhaps this "tightness" is a reflection of Rosaleen's limited understanding of the world and of sex, as well as what it means to be a mature woman. By not being allowed to stray from the path, the young girl is inexperienced and not able to see beyond the childlike views that she has always known. In any case, fans of dreamlike settings should definitely find those that are in The Company of Wolves beautiful.

The huntsman approaches
One aspect of this film that can be somewhat off-putting for some is that it is really not a full out horror film. If you intend to see a werewolf horror film, then you may be somewhat bored with the slow pacing of The Company of Wolves. You can rest assured that there are indeed aspects of horror in the film such as werewolf transformations and decapitations, but they are not enough for me to consider this straight horror. I would, however, consider this to be a fantasy/drama with elements of horror occasionally mixed in at times.

The final confrontation 

The Company of Wolves is definitely not a film for everybody. I believe that if you go into the film understanding that it is about Rosaleen's entrance into womanhood and her struggle to accept her sexuality, then the symbolism will make much more sense. Often films that deal with werewolves can be nothing more than entertainment schlock with no real substance, but because of the depth of this film, it moves beyond the run of the mill werewolf movie, and becomes a really engaging statement.

Sarah Patterson, though young and new to acting, does a superb job as a confused young girl that is growing up. She seemed to have the beginnings of a promising career, and it seems strange that she stopped acting. Perhaps she had her own awakening of the film business, and called it quits. The supporting cast does an equally great job, and I especially enjoyed seeing Angela Landsbury in all of her porcelain glory.

Anyways, I would recommend this movie to anybody that enjoys rich symbolism, fairy tales, and fantasy. The Company of Wolves is a great movie, and is well worth the time if you know what you're getting into.


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