Film Rec: The Company of Wolves

Tomorrow I get to pretend to be a full fledged teacher for a professional development day. I get to take workshops on teaching rock scores to theater students, a free lunch, a networking session, and admittance to the high school theater awards being announced by someone from One Tree Hill. This is the sad day where maybe thirty of the real teachers come up and ask me if I can music direct for their show and I have to turn them down because ever school that would want me does their musical within three weeks of each other and I'm already comitted to a different program. Film Rec: The Company of Wolves Is The Company of Wolves a perfect film? Absolutely not. There are quite a few clunkers in the cast that bring it down. Does that impact the strength of Neil Jordan's screenplay? No. Not in the least bit. Adapting Angela Carter's story of the same name from her fairy tale inspired collection The Bloody Chamber, Neil Jordan creates one of the most unique spins on fairy tales I've ever witnessed. The present day story is a briefly visited framing device to introduce us to the imagination of Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson), a young girl obsessed with escaping by any means necessary. She dreams of living another life, far from her posh mansion, in the days of fairy tales. Within this dream world, her cruel sister was just killed by wolves. Her grandmother (Angela Lansbury in the performance of the film) begins to dispense helpful device about handling questionable men whose eyebrows meet while finishing up a beautiful red cape for her darling granddaughter Rosaleen. As the film progresses, the line between Rosaleen's dream and her grandmother's fairy tales continually blurs, leading to extraordinary circumstances no one wants to believe. So, The Company of Wolves is based in Little Red Riding Hood. But that alone is not the strength of the film. There are certain events that have to occur because of this device, but it doesn't stop brief lovely allusions to The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Hansel and Gretel, and other classic fairy tales. The film is not as straight forward as the fairy tales it pulls from. It is a dark, brooding examination of sexual maturation, family dynamics, and the truth behind folk tales. There are moments of pure fantasy that are nothing short of brilliant. For example, while the wolf/man connection is established early, the transformation rules are inventive. Not only can a man become a wolf. A wolf can become a man, or a woman, or a child. It's not a simple matter of curse or infection. The town denies their existence, and chooses to ignore incidents that should open their eyes. The curiosity of Rosaleen is constantly placed at odds with the shroud of innocence protecting the town. She wants to venture down the path alone and dares to ask the heretical question "Why couldn't she save herself?" The true achievement of the screenplay is the advancement of the plot through the fairy tale interludes. Seeing a boy be tricked into becoming a wolf may seem like a showcase for effects; it's actually a sleight of hand to shift the film into more dangerous territory. The innocence of the town frays with each tale, revealing a darker truth that only Rosaleen can understand. The ending of the film is incredible, as the predictable Red Riding Hood elements are met, subverted, and reinvented to present a far more powerful message in fairy tale, dream world, and reality. If you haven't seen The Company of Wolves, understand that this is a strange film. It's the symbolic colors of Argento mixed with the Grotesque of Browning, the narrative experiments of Lynch, and the open presentations of Cronenberg. It is everything you could expect and nothing you could be prepared for. The film may not be superb, but the writing is.

Labels: film rec