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Brotherhood of the Wolf

United States poster
Directed by Christophe Gans
Produced by Richard Grandpierre
Samuel Hadida
Written by Christophe Gans
Stéphane Cabel
Starring Samuel Le Bihan
Vincent Cassel
Émilie Dequenne
Monica Bellucci
Jérémie Renier
Mark Dacascos
Music by Joseph LoDuca
Cinematography Dan Laustsen
Editing by David Wu
Sébastien Prangère
Xavier Loutreuil
Distributed by Universal Pictures (US) (theatrical)
Focus Features (US) (director's cut DVD)
TVA Films(Canada)
Metropolitan Filmexport (France)
United International Pictures (Australia)
StudioCanal (international sales)
Release date(s) France:
31 January 2001
1 June 2001
United States:
11 January 2002
Running time 142 minutes
151 minutes (director's cut)
Country France
Language French
Budget $29,000,000
Gross revenue $70,752,904 (worldwide)[1]

Brotherhood of the Wolf is a 2001 French film directed by Christophe Gans, starring Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, Émilie Dequenne and Mark Dacascos, and written by Gans and Stéphane Cabel. Its original French title is French: Le Pacte des loups which literally means "the pact of the wolves".

The film is loosely based on a real-life series of killings that took place in France in the 18th century and on the famous legend around the Beast of Gévaudan. Parts of the film were shot at Château de Roquetaillade. Being a historical drama film, it has anachronistic martial arts fight sequences; it also contains elements of erotica, mystery, horror, politics, romance, and fantasy.

This $29 million-budgeted film was an international box office success, grossing over $70 million in worldwide theatrical release.[2] In the United States of America, the film also enjoyed commercial success; Universal Pictures paid $2 million to acquire the film's United States distribution rights[3] and this film went on grossing $11,260,096 in limited theatrical release in the United States, making it the second-highest-grossing French-language film in the United States in the last two decades (this film also did brisk video and DVD sales in the United States).[4]



The film begins during the French Revolution with the aged Marquis d'Apcher (Jacques Perrin) as the narrator, writing his memoirs in a castle, while the voices of a mob can be heard from outside. The film flashes back to the mid 1760s when a mysterious beast terrorized the province of Gévaudan and nearby lands.

Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a knight and the royal taxidermist of King Louis XV of France, and his Acadian companion Mani (Dacascos), an Mikmaq, arrive in Gévaudan to capture the beast. Upon arrival, they rescue an aged healer and his daughter from an attack by soldiers. The young and enlightened Thomas, Marquis d'Apcher (Jérémie Renier), befriends them and assists their investigation.

Fronsac is initially skeptical about the beast's existence, since survivors describe it as much larger than any wolf he has ever seen. However, by studying the bite size on a victim of the beast, he deduces that it must weigh roughly 500 lb (227 kg). Captain Duhamel (Eric Prat), an army officer leading the hunt for the beast, has killed dozens of ordinary wolves, but has not come close to the actual killer.

While staying in Gévaudan, Fronsac romances Marianne de Morangias (Émilie Dequenne), the daughter of a local count, whose brother, Jean-François (Cassel), was also an avid hunter and a world traveler, before losing one arm to a lion in Africa. Fronsac is also intrigued by Sylvia (Bellucci), an Italian courtesan at the local brothel.

While investigating another victim, Fronsac finds a fang made of steel, and his doubts of the Beast's existence thicken. Another witness swears that the Beast is controlled by a human master. Fronsac studies the patterns of the attacks and victims, trying to find a common thread and reveal a murderer. As the investigation proves to be unfruitful, the king's weapons master, Lord de Beauterne (Johan Leysen), arrives to put an end to the Beast. But instead of doing so, Beauterne kills an ordinary wolf and tells Fronsac to alter the corpse so it resembles the monster accordingly. Fronsac hesitantly does so, and the bogus wolf is sent back to Paris, where it is put on display, much to the pleasure of the king and the French aristocracy.

In Paris, the king's advisor shows Fronsac a copy of a book titled L'Édifiante ["The Edifying"] with treasonous theories, stating the Beast has come to punish the King of France for his indulgence of the philosophers, and that the modern embracement of science over religion is heresy. Fronsac realizes that the Beast is an instrument of a secret society, The Brotherhood of the Wolf, working to undermine public confidence in the king and ultimately take over the country.

Fronsac is told that "officially" the Beast is dead, warned to keep his mouth shut, and bribed with an appointment to travel to Senegal. Back in Gévaudan, the attacks by the real Beast continue.

Ignoring his orders, Fronsac returns to Gévaudan, determined to put an end to the Beast's killings, and also to take Marianne away. Upon his return, the Beast attacks and he sees it with his own eyes. It kills a man, but mysteriously refrains from attacking Marianne.

Fronsac, Mani, and the Marquis set out into the forest and set up an array of traps to capture the Beast, but it proves to be too powerful and intelligent to be captured by anything they can set up. After a violent encounter, Mani sets off solo in pursuit, where he finds a catacomb used as the Beast's holding pen, inhabited by the Brotherhood and a band of Gypsies working with them. These include, ironically, the elderly veterinarian, the Beast's tender, and his daughter, whom Mani saved. Outnumbered and distracted by the daughter, Mani is shot in the back, overwhelmed and killed, but not before slaughtering a good number of his attackers.

Fronsac is broken when he discovers his best friend has been murdered. Performing an autopsy, he finds a silver bullet, Jean-François's signature weapon. In a fit of rage he goes to the catacombs and seeks revenge, finding a pile of copies of L'Édifiante. He kills many of the Gypsies and discovers the Beast's lair before leaving so that he can burn Mani's body at dawn. After collecting Mani's ashes, he is then overpowered by the local authorities and imprisoned.

Sylvia visits him in jail and reveals to him that she is a spy for the Vatican. The local priest, Henri Sardis (Jean-François Stévenin), is the leader of the Brotherhood, believing that he is restoring worship of God to France. Pope Clement XIII has decided that Sardis is insane, and sent her to eliminate him. She then poisons Fronsac, telling him he knows too much.

Fronsac is presumed dead, and buried, when in fact Sylvia's poison has only put him into a temporary coma. Henri Sardis wants to kill Marianne, and he persuades Jean-François to do so (as a way to combat his incestuous lust for his sister). Jean-François comes to Marianne's room and reveals to her that he is the Beast's master; it recognized his scent when it came near her, which is why it did not attack. He also reveals that his right arm is in fact intact, albeit badly scarred, and he has kept it hidden for no apparent reason other than to fool the audience (his arm is seen stroking the Beast earlier in the film). Jean-François then rapes and nearly kills Marianne.

Sylvia's agents exhume Fronsac and he appears at one of the Brotherhood's secret sermons. In the climactic battle, he kills several Gypsies and duels Jean-François to the death. The other members of the Brotherhood attempt to flee, but they are corralled and arrested by Captain Duhamel and his men. Sylvia personally kills the Gypsy veterinarian's daughter. Sardis escapes into the mountains, but is mauled to death by a pack of wolves (their leader being the same wolf that survived the previous slaughter, was seen chasing the Beast with its pack and seemingly bonded at a spiritual level with Mani), in an example of poetic justice.

Fronsac attempts to heal Marianne with a potion carried by Mani. He and the marquis Thomas go to the Beast's lair, where being tended to by the veterinarian, it lies grievously wounded after the fight in the forest. It turns out the Beast was an offspring of a "strange beast" that Jean-François brought back from Africa (which director Christophe Gans insists is a lion[5]). It was tortured into becoming vicious, trained to attack humans, and dressed in metal armor plating and spikes along with a large mask and metal implants in its jaw to make it more formidable and frightening. Fronsac takes pity on the dying creature and kills the Beast in an act of mercy.

The film then returns to the opening time period of the French Revolution. The now-elderly Marquis d'Apcher finishes writing his account of the killings, just before he is led to his execution by a revolutionary mob.

In the final scene, the Marquis has a flashback, in which he narrates that he does not know what happened to Fronsac and Marianne but he hopes that somewhere, they are happy together. Fronsac is shown traveling to Senegal with Marianne to start a new life together, scattering Mani's ashes at sea. It is left unstated whether the two are alive and happy or whether this is indeed the Marquis' dream.


French teaser poster

Director's cut DVD

The cover of two-disc director's cut DVD (United States version)

In the United States, Focus Features released a two-disc director's cut DVD of Brotherhood of the Wolf on 26 August 2008. Beside having a longer cut of the film, the DVD also has several extra features: deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, two behind the scenes documentaries (The Guts of the Beast and Documentary), Legend documentary (a documentary that reveals the historical facts about the Beast of Gévaudan), and Storyboards gallery.[6][7]

Critical reception

Brotherhood of The Wolf garnered mostly positive reviews, with a 72% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 113 reviews.[8] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that this film is "entertaining".[9] Michael Atkinson of Village Voice wrote "It's easily the most disarming and inventive movie made for genre geeks in years."[10] Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News wrote that this film is "exciting, alluring and thrilling".[11]





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