The period costumery if fabulous, the natural lighting (earthy candlelight for the interiors and a chillingly de-saturated palette for exteriors) and depiction of the horrendous changes of weather in the southern French hills is exemplary. The camerawork is stunning and, as opposed to standard Merchant Ivory fare, has a twitching, nervous, steel armoured dynamism that reflects perfectly both the horror as figured by the beast and the determination embodied by the movie's two heroic leads.
We meet the heroes, Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel le Bihan, playing an incorrigible and thoroughly charming libertine) and Mani (Mark Dacascos, his softly spoken, enigmatic Red Indian 'brother') soaked to the skin and defending the honour of a young maiden and her father from a band of thugs. Martial arts fanatics get eyefuls of such encounters throughout the movie and the narrative twists they introduce come thick and fast thereafter.
This movie has the lot; romance in the form of Fronsac's attempted seduction of the naive and waiflike Marianne de Morangias (played by Émilie Dequenne), lusty whore-play and sinister intrigue in the form of buxom courtesan Sylvia (played by Monica Bellucci), incest and a bit of a socio-politically historical commentary.
Brotherhood Of The Wolf may be a bit slow and long for normal moviegoers' tastes but this merely adds to the tension as the story whips around like a crazed cat's tail. The action is relentless and the pathos is as thick as pea soup. The sombre and stunningly downbeat nostalgic ending to such a 'cruel' film is the perfect and unflinching denouement to a movie that is not afraid to upset the Hollywood applecart. This movie certainly did not receive a glowing diploma from pre-screening college, all the better for the director's uncensored purity of vision.
This film is also available to buy in a director's cut, subtitled on video.