11/19/2019 3:28 pm
The Brotherhood of the Wolf, directed by Christophe Gans, takes place in 1764 In a rural province of France. It follows are main characters Grégoire de Fronsac, who works for the King of France, and his companion Mani, a Native American of the Iroquois tribe; all narrated by a member of the small-town, Marquis d’Apcher. Many of the themes and conflicts that these characters go through are a product of the time period that his movie is set in. Through these ideas the monsters in this film are formed, mythical and physical monsters alike. In 1764, France was ruled by an absolute monarch named King Louis XV of France. However, the relationships between the church and the kingdom and the people of France and the kingdom grew tense and showed unrest amongst all parties. King Louis XV thought of himself as the one true king and monarchy during this time were thought to be a gift from God, that God had appointed King Louis XV himself to rule. Through this action the tension between the Catholic church, the Pope, and the King suffered. The Pope wanted a return to the church and that the people under the faith should answer to the Pope as well as the King. France at this time was predominately Catholic but through the rise of the Enlightenment and the Protestant faith put a strain of the followers of the Catholic faith and the church worried that there would be a mass conversion. Enlightenment dealt with the ideas of science and reasoning which could turn people away from God. While the Protestants had a long history of animosity towards Catholicism and Catholicism would often return the sentiment. Thus, resulted in the French Revolution of 1789 where the people of France revolt against King Louis XVI, the son of Louis XV. This revolution is what we see at the end of the movie. Therefore, the characters are fighting with these concepts. Fronsac is a naturalist and leans towards the ideas of Enlightenment while working for the King and finds himself meeting opposition from the people in the village that stick to traditional ideals. Another historical event that greatly effects our main characters is the French and Indian War which ends in 1763 a year before this movie takes place. We learn that Mani and Fronsac have become campions and travel together. This sets up an interesting relationship between Mani and the village people because there are unsure of Native American and refer to him as a “savage” a couple times throughout the movie. These themes can also be seen in the techniques that are used in the cinematography.
A common technique used in the movie is that of foreshadowing. A common trope that we see throughout the film is that mystery that is hidden around the beast itself. We never see the beast in the beginning that is killing all these people. We catch glimpses and we see the aftermath of the attacks but never the beast itself. Slowly throughout the movie we see more and more revealing the beast to us as well as the tamer of the beast. The story that is built around Jean-Francois foreshadows what we see unfold throughout the movie. The glimpses of the man with the beast and grotesque arm come as a surprise when they are revealed to us that is was Jean-Francois the entire time. This movie relies on the element of mystery to heighten its characters and themes so there is a big reveal at the end. Mani is another character that is often portrayed with an air of mystery to him he doesn’t speak most of the film and when he does, he is to the point and through his bravery dies which is a turning point for the character Fronsac and the audience. That is when the veil is being lifted on the organization of the Brotherhood of the Wolf.
One social construct that is brought up throughout the movie is the idea of masculinity within the main characters and the towns people itself. Specifically, with killing the beasts and the hunts they go on looking for the beast. In the movie we see both sides and how they interact with it. While Jean-Francois is impaired he does what he can to still join the hunt to show that he is manly. He has special guns made with special bullets. Meanwhile, Mani is challenging the construct because he relates to nature due to his Native American heritage and traditions. He doesn’t need to kill the wolves for sport because he is strong in his ideals as a man. This helps alienate him more amongst the men of the village because he is a savage and refuses to part take in killing when invited to the hunt. This also ties into the hierarchies of the village and how these characters fall into an order. The church takes charge here as we can see with the family of Jean-Francois, Marianne, and the mother. Then it is the social elite which is still the family. We find Fronsac in the middle because he is bringing in new ideas and his campion Mani. Mani is not treated lesser per say but he has the status that he does because he is around Fronsac who fights for Mani’s existence amongst them. We also have the lower class which we have some of our antagonists and the women who is a prostitute, but we learn of her being a spy for the Pope. These hierarchies play into the tensions of France against the church, the power of the King and the new ideas of Enlightenment. It sets up the beginning arguments of the revolution that will soon come take place at the end of the movie. The message that this sends to the audience is the fight for your place as a man in a world that is built upon your masculinity. It shows how each man finds his own masculinity that the watcher is privy to see. This is important because we have both spectrums of the good and destruction that masculinity can cause on the characters themselves and the people around them. The issues of bringing this to light is there is no one cut way to depict masculinity and each man has their own. Mani’s coming of a place from religion is valid but not applicable to all men. It just lays a framework of possible avenues of exploring masculinity in good ways, but also bad ways and it is up to the watcher to discern for themselves what is the toxic masculinity which I think can be dangerous because of the portrayl of Fronsac and Jean-Francois. Fronsac is not the villain but he sleeps around with other women while he is in love and trying to woo Marianne and is met with little consequences and he still gets the girl in the end which is questionable behavior.
The message that this film sends leaves me with mixed feelings because while progress and science, the enlightenment side, is important I believe making the blanket statement that all tradition is inherently bad and halts all progress is a dangerous narrative to spin. While Catholicism in this movie is seen as corrupt it is not always. Likewise, Mani’s traditions as a Native American doesn’t hinder him from progress while the other characters don’t understand his culture. Enlightenment isn’t also always good either. Fronsac fakes what the beast looks like to show the king and so they have a symbol which doesn’t reduce the killings therefore not moral and not progressive. I believe this issue is universal it can been seen in all societies of this time period and America involvement with Native American affairs. This is helpful for Rockford University students because it brings awareness to issues of Native Americans outside of the United States and how the Native Americans effected other countries. It is also helpful in showing what different kinds of masculinity look like and what is considered healthy masculinity or toxic masculinity.
(The pictures attached are examples of the two types of masculinity that I discussed in my paper. One depicts Jean-Francois and the other Mani who have two very different views of masculinity within the movie.)
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