Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Company of Wolves (1984)- Review

Film cover
The company of wolves is a Gothic horror fantasy film directed by Neil Jordan in 1984. Set in the modern 19Th century, the story revolves around a young girl Rosaleen who stays at her Granny’s house telling her granddaughter different strange disturbing tales involving sudden disappearances of people when there’s a full moon and howling of wolves in the woods, innocent maidens falling in love with handsome, heavy mono-browed men, babies found in stork eggs etc.

Based on the werewolf story of the same name the book collection, The Bloody Chamber written by Angela Carter. The film is very much little red riding hood style with “A bag full of symbolic folklore about werewolves, or, rather, their sexual connotation.”(Homme, 1984). The film is not a film for children but is a disturbing and quite stylized to show dreams and nightmares in a simple child’s fairytale, (Ebert, 1985).The film mostly shows Rosaleen doing regular visits to her grandmother whilst wearing a red hood, which quite symbolizes little red riding hood. The use of conspiracies and superstition is quite like to “The Salem Witch Trials” where tales were once true, especially talks of not to stray off the path, humans born feet first, born on Christmas day etc. another example is of when starting to narrate a folktale it would mostly starts of as “Once upon a time...” Stories that were narrated to various characters (mostly between the Grandmother and her Grandchild) were followed by a flashback style of reconstructed events.  The first story, which was of a newlywed couple when the husband suddenly disappeared on a full moon and was assumed dead by a wolf paw print in the snow but returned years later to find his wife had married another man and had kids. At this point, enraged by this discovery, the returned old husband begins to rip his face clean off, revealing the flesh and muscles. As he does this, his whole body begins to change into a wolf, with the wolf mouth popping out from the human’s mouth, clearly done with animatronics and prosthetics. However most of the transformation sequences from humans to wolves are done with animatronics and prosthetics.

Peeling off skin transformation
It is quite notable that the humans that become the wolves are all male, this is to depict the dominance of men and due to the transformation of becoming a beast, and it can be symbolized as the sex metaphor of lust. This is strongly depicted in the scene where a dashing suave huntsman approaches Rosaleen where they have a picnic and when she tells the tale of the she-wolf. The film is quite strong on Christianity due to the time era of the film, but how things are depicted as evil and things alike, such as the wolves came from the well of hell and the crimson moon and baby’s being born from a stork’s egg symbolizing reproduction. At one point, there is a scene where a story of a young boy in the forest encounters the devil, driving in a Rolls- Royce car who offers him a magic potion in which the young boy drinks and become the wolf beast. This also can be seen as an act of the devils as the wolves are associated with hell.

German Shepherds transformation still
The whole storyline of the film is quite confusing, staring off with a dream sequence of which a girl is seen fleeing from a pack of wolves which quite noticeably, most of the wolves are in fact German shepherd dogs which leads to the question of has Jordan deliberately add them in due to the resemblance? The film is also famous due to its non linear storyline as well as the idea of having a dream inside a dream which gives off the feeling of dreamlike and disorientation.

The sets used in the film are quite stylized, containing a bit of German expressionism for the woods and something from Sweeney Todd. According to Vincent Canby, “Mr. Jordan, his set designers and his special-effects people have made a movie that looks like a cross between something by Jean Cocteau, not at peak form, and a horror movie from Hammer Films.” (Canby, 1985), using props such as large toadstools, toads, rats, owls, snakes and wolves to symbolize the darkness and hell.
Behind the scenes of animatronics

Throughout the course of the film, we see that Rosaleen is a young girl growing to be a young matured woman, however instead of a happy ending, Rosaleen allows herself to become a werewolf like Eric Miller says, “symbolically shedding her childhood skin and becoming a full grown woman.  These symbols and images allow us to see how the sleeping Rosaleen's subconscious is working out her maturation and the fears and pleasures that come with growing up.” (Miller, 2009) Examples of this are shown with either her or another young girl running around in the nightmare woods being chased by wolves, with childhood items lying around the woods such as enlarged teddy bears, dolls houses, clocks etc.
Nightmare Teddy Bear still
The ending scene is just as confusing as the beginning, with Rosaleen in her bed having a bad nightmare of wolves breaking into her bedroom window and her screaming. This then leads onto the credits rolling with a black screen with Rosaleen reading the poem of Perrault's moral from Le Petit Chaperon Rouge which the moral warns little girls to be aware of charming strangers.
List of Illustrations:

Jordan, N (1984) Film Cover:
Fig 1: Jordan, N (1984) Peeling off skin wolf transformation :
Fig 2: Jordan, N (1984) German Shepherds transformation still:
Fig3: Jordan, N (1984) Behind the scenes of animatronics:
Fig 4: Jordan, N (1984) Nightmare teddy bear still:

Homme A, Piest (1984) The Compnay of Wolves:
Ebert, R (1985) The Company of Wolves:
Canby, V (1985) The Company of Wolves (1984) :
Miller, E (2009) The Company of Wolves (1984):

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