11/19/2019 11:38 am
Natural Respect in Les Pacte des Loups
By Jessica Brown
The French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War, was fought over disputes of colonized land beginning in 1756 and ending in 1763. In part by securing support from Native American tribes France had a favorable outcome by the end of the war. Several valuable territories came into French possession. Although France allied with Natives French a majority of French citizens did not consider the Natives to be much more than savages.
In the 2001 film, Le Pacte des Loups (English title is Brotherhood of the Wolf), numerous scenes begin with sweeping views of lush green hills. These stunning sights of the film’s setting, a humble countryside in 18th century France, inspire awe and wonder in viewers while setting the stage for themes concerning nature and respect for it. At times these shots move swiftly through the landscape in a manner somewhat like a rollercoaster. This occurs in order to contribute to a sense of danger as a frightful beast resides in the wilderness. It is remarkable how the movement of the camera across vast areas of nature is utilized to inspire wonder and senses of peace at times while on other times senses of danger and fear.
Le Pact des Loups demonstrates views of nature are socially constructed, particularly in concerns of respecting nature. There are two social groups that are noteworthily represented. The first group includes French people of the province of Gévaudan especially the wealthy, upper class. The second group includes outsiders from beyond the province of Gévaudan, Fronsac and Mani. Fronsac is a knight and naturalist who spent considerable time in North America. Mani is a man from the Iroquois Native American tribe. These two outsiders are shown to have views of nature that differ greatly from the people Gévaudan. During hunting scenes Fronsac and Mani avoid killing wolves because in addition to knowing the wolves are not to blame for the beast’s killings, they respect the wolves as natural life. Marrianne, the daughter of a local count, is present for this scene and she questions the outsiders for she considers their actions strange. They kindly explain the purposes of their ways and she does not question them further. At the end of the film the beast is captured and killed. Before it is put to death, however, Fronsac tenderly strokes it near its sorrowful eye. This shows his care for the fearful creature that had been cruelly mistreated and made into a monstrous killer. He cares for the abused lion as he did the wolves, as a creature of nature worthy of respect. This treatment contrasts the manner in which the tamers, who are members of the first social group, have acted upon the beast. They did not respect him as living being unlike Fronsac. They used him as an instrument for their awful plans. Fronsac’s views are seemingly greatly influenced by his companion, Mani. Mani’s background as a Native American greatly contributes to his world views. The people of Gévaudan, particularly the wealthy, hold their views from a perceived position of power over the natural world and its creatures. This is shown in the apparent pride the hunters have in their abilities slaughter wolves in large numbers. The audience is intended to favor Fronsac and Mani’s views of nature over those of the wealthy people of Gévaudan. Their respect and kindness for nature is depicted as admirable. Presenting this issue in this manner may encourage viewers to consider the natural world with a greater sense of respect. Such would be unlikely to manifest in the same ways as it does in the film, instead, audience members may seek out other ways to be kind and respectful to nature.
Personally I mostly agree with the film’s intended message. However, I am uncertain I entirely approve of the ways they present their message. It seems to me they intentionally set up Fronsac and Mani as the “good guys.” It seems as if is is them against the world in a sense. Presenting their stance in this way comes off somewhat self-righteous. Speaking for myself, this is a bit of a turn off. It makes me think of how some vegans act. While their causes may be noble their attitudes can be discouraging. Additionally, I am not certain I entirely approve of Mani’s portrayal. It certainly seems better than other portrayals of Native Americans, such as Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger (2013). My main gripe is the costume he wears during the scene that leads to his death. The face paint does not bother me much at all but the loincloth does. Perhaps it makes sense as a choice for Mani, it may be more comfortable and familiar for combat allowing him to be more agile, but to me it seems wildly unprotective. It also could create a view of Mani as a stereotypical “savage.” This is just my impression. As I stated, I think Mani is presented positively over all. Beyond these concerns, I found the film enjoyable enough. The costumes and fight scenes were of particular note. Wikipedia describes the film as “historical action horror” so if that sounds interesting to you, give the film a watch.
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