Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Unit 1: Anatomy - Review - Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves (1984)

Figure 1. The Company of Wolves Poster Art

The 1984 film “The Company of Wolves” tells the story of a hallucinogenic dream world created by a sleeping girl - Rosaline (Sarah Patterson), where the beast is king. On a full moon the wolf discards his human-like disguise to run wild, free of the path ordained by the village folk. One could attribute this “Curse” as a punishment to those that “stray from the path” out of the realm of normality itself.

•Directed by: Neil Jordan
•Written by: Neil Jordan & Angela Carter
•Cast: Angela Lansbury as Granny, David Warner as Father, Stephen Rea as Young Groom, Tusse Silberg as Mother, Sarah Patterson as Rosaleen & Graham Crowden as Priest
•Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
•Duration: 95 Minutes (aprox)

The story is preordained to define the raw hunger of the beast, its animal instincts, its natural purpose to dominate as a pack, as a family in the company of wolves.

At first glance one could draw the conclusion that man becoming wolf would be stereotyped as a curse of sorts inspiring the human archetype of the wolves to hate what they have become. As the story plays out one comes to realise that the wolves like their alter-ego which is rather controversial for those that love a tragic hero/heroine (e.g. “the Beast” - La Belle et La Bette). Rosaline is uncharacteristic in nature staying firmly on the crevices of good and evil rebelling against the populace fear of wolves while idly walking into danger without a care in the world.

Figure 2. “Don’t stray from the path girl"

The belligerent multi linear wolf narratives that differentiate from Angela Lansbury’s Granny to Sarah Patterson’s Rosaline show a contrast of fear to empathy, providing a number of possibilities with no certainties.

The central Red Riding Hood story as played out here appears to be taken fairly straight from the Brothers Grimm. The film makers, however, have more than fleshed out the character of Grandmother, who is full of esoteric advice, such as ''Beware of windfallen apples and of men whose eyebrows meet.'' She also knows a thing or two about wolves. (Canby: 1985)
The film itself is based on “the old wives tale” of werewolves like the boogieman or the monster that hides in the closet, the disorganisation is the collation of uncertainties interpreted by the sleeping child’s idiosyncratic mindset. There is no true answer because the youths mind has no way of processing the underlined truth from a horde of rumours.

Figure 3. “Aren’t you afraid of the wolves?”

“The waking life, with its trials and joys, its pleasures and pains, is never repeated; on the contrary, the dream aims at relieving us of these. Even when our whole mind is filled with one subject, when our hearts are rent by bitter grief or when some task has been taxing our mental capacity to the utmost, the dream either gives us something entirely alien, or it selects for its combinations only a few elements of reality; or it merely enters into the key of our mood, and symbolizes reality.”(Freud, 1911:09)
Dreams of the unconscious mind are erratic at best dragging facts and fictitious rumours to create a pool of surrealism. The mind can even believe it is true when the lines between the real and the surreal become faint. One could argue that Rosaline waking from her dream being attacked by wolves is an example of the unconscious mind blurring reality and rolling her sleeping body into her dream (a dream within a dream).

The anachronistic nature of The Company of Wolves also aides the story in blurring the lines of dreams and reality- some of the storytelling gives us a break from Red Riding Hood stylings in favor of other creepy and ironic wolf tales.(Snouffer: 2009)
The transformation sequences (from man to wolf) are meant to convey the fear of a predator as they would to their prey. The dead-set yellow eyes with the overbearing furry brow highlight the human in the wolf (human on the outside, fury on the inside). One could also note that when going through the metamorphosis from man to wolf the hair of the subject’s chest is the first thing to grow, which is a genetic trait in males when they reach puberty, subtly typecasting the wolfs archetype to males (one could believe this is why Rosaline did not transform in shot like the other male wolves).

Figure 4. “My home is nowhere”

Rosaline is the curious element of the tale, fascinated by the anti wolf ravings of her beloved Granny only to repackage each tale to the favour of the wolf. Rosaline never relinquishes her power, flirting, baiting and toying with every on screen alpha male establishing her dominance to the wolf and non wolf alike. The introduction of the film goes so far as to place toy like obstacles (representing the end of Rosaline’s youth) in front of her sister as she runs from a heard of wolves. Rosaline’s descent into womanhood is symbolised later in the film namely by egg fetuses (another thing she was told that was regurgitated by her subconscious – incorrect)

To Summarize

Generally speaking the message is present but faint (purposely), one could argue that these hallucinogenic elements make the film confusing in places (who saw the baby fetuses coming). Jumping from story to story can seem like a tailspin of uncertainty distancing the viewer from bonding an attachment to the narrative. Rosaline was generally unlikable riding the edges of good and evil while not playing either particularly well, underlining her role as “incomplete”. The story was based on the symbolism to rebel.

Figure 5. “Are you gods work or the devils?”

The belief is that wolves are feral by nature, the epitome of the term “wild”. The village folk advise and advise again “not to stray from the path” which one could assume was the path of normality. Rosaline was curious and like any typical teen was ruled by her adolescence to disobey, to stray from her parent’s path and forge her own identity. She was no longer a child but a growing adult trying to find her way of accepting the changes that were inevitable. These changes were conveyed as a nightmare, a distortion of reality fuelled by her fear of becoming like everyone else. Rosaline wanted to be free like the wolf to do as she may and to be as she sought.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. The Company of Wolves Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-fn2-UHXxSMk/TXcohQCREDI/AAAAAAAAAMc/7MtL_gB7vjo/s1600/The%2BCompany%2Bof%2BWolves%2Bposter.jpg (Accessed on: 28/09/11)

Figure 2. Don’t stray from the path girl. (com) [Online image]. At:
(Accessed on: 28/09/11)

Figure 3. Aren’t you afraid of the wolves? (com) [Online image]. At:
http://basementrejects.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/company-of-wolves-huntsman.jpg (Accessed on: 28/09/11)

Figure 4. My home is nowhere. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_UT0ND90tN_0/TLqlDypcPlI/AAAAAAAAAE4/jvUSI-wv9EI/s1600/Company+of+wolves+paedo.JPG (Accessed on: 28/09/11)

Figure 5. Are you gods work or the devils? (com) [Online image]. At:
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-mgGwrUjIUf4/TaL5a0rUbHI/AAAAAAAAD4s/FRBH6qnmO9Q/company_of_wolves_blue_still.jpg (Accessed on: 28/09/11)



Canby, Vincent. (1985) Movie Review – the Company of Wolves At:
http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9802EFD91138F93AA25757C0A963948260 (Accessed on: 28/09/11)

Freud, Sigmund. (1911) The Interpretation of Dreams. 3rd ed. Printed in the USA

Snouffer, Kristin. (2009) The Company of Wolves Review At:
(Accessed on: 28/09/11)

1 comment:

  1. a little bit of Freud in the mix! Excellent. There are some poetic passages in this review and some confident analysis. I enjoyed it.