To be honest, I don't know if I have enough adjectives in my aresenal to describe how freakin' cool Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le pacte de loups) is, but I'll do my best. It's two parts action flick, one part Merchant Ivory masterpiece, one part love story, with just a touch of horror, served in a heaping platter of jaw droppingly gorgeous scenery with a conspiracy glaze. Mmmm. Delicious.
Gregoire and Mani (Le Bihan and Dacascos) are en route to a small village to investigate the reports of a murderous "beast" that has killed several people over the course of a year. The town has employed the army to seek the creature, which they believe to be a werewolf, but Gregoire is not convinced, especially when he discovers traces of metal and man-made implements in the wounds of one of the victims. Gregoire is called off the case when he gets too close to the truth and resorts to hunting the beast on his own, without the support of the king or the villagers, who are hiding something as deadly as the beast itself.
Le pacte de loups is an absolutely astonishing film. Everything about the film feels like an epic, from the period detail of costumes and sets, to the lush cinematography and sweeping panoramic vistas, the viewer is hopelessly lost in director Gans' meticulously crafted world. While the titular horror element is very much a major part of the story, it is not the central focus of the film, rather the piece which drives the characters forward and expounds upon them individually, making them each extremely vivid and realistic protagonists and antagonists, as opposed to cardboard cutouts that dot the scenery. Gans and Stephane Cabel's screenplay is reminsiscent of the great horror classics of old where the "monster" element is only a backdrop against which the characters interact and grow, weaving itself in and out of the story where it is needed yet always lurking in the backs of the minds of the players and viewer just enough to maintain the tension. Le pacte de loups takes it's time spinning it's yarn over it's 170 minute plus running time, but the pace is not boring, rather it is involving, like a great book. It's satisfying and left this viewer with a grin from ear to ear, knowing that my time was more than well spent.
The Region One DVD from Universal, however is not what a film of this magnitude deserves. While the sound and image are both fantastic, the set features little by way of extras. We get some deleted scenes and bios, plus a trailer, and that is all. As of this writing, the suggested retail price of $26.99 is enough to turn some people off of a full blown extras packed release, let alone a one disc barely there affair, so it's disappointing to say the least.
TVA International, the Canadian company who gave us the wonderful Ginger Snaps special edition, is releasing it's own 3 disc set of Le pacte de loups, featuring commentary tracks, behind the scenes documentaries, and loads of other material, and, while I have not seen the disc or can I judge the quality of the transfer, I have seen their work before and it's top-drawer stuff.