THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984)
Directed by Neil Jordan
Music by George Fenton
The company of Wolves has been adapted from a mixture of stories by Angela Carter, including the short story of the same name. A mix of folklore, feminism, erotica and fairytales inspires Carter’s stories. Luke Thomson (New Times 2003) noted that “Red Riding Hood has always been a good source for nightmares, and this is one of the more compelling of those bad dreams”. The stories have been fused together by incorporating them into a dream by the main character, thus allowing the film to jump around ideas and scenes seemingly haphazardly.
The dream idea works because the viewer is always kept in suspense. At no point does the viewer know where the scene is leading, and some fragments peter out whilst some are suddenly violent; some seem to resolve themselves in a morally pleasing way and some leave a slightly bad taste.
Mixed in with the dreams are plenty of clues that the film is about girls reaching puberty, becoming fertile and moving into womanhood. Before the dream Rosalee has tried on her sister’s lipstick, something that girls do as they become aware of boys and start puberty. There are continuous references to the lunar month, parallel to menstruation. Climbing a tall tree Rosalee reaches a nest where the eggs contain fertility dolls; there are various threads that show conflicting ideas of life as a woman: the victim with crying children & aggressive husband; the slightly senile granny, the powerful seductress. They also highlight the complexity of human relationships.
Louise Watson, in her review for ScreenOnline, suggests that despite her blossoming sexual awareness, Rosalee fears marriage and adult responsibilities. However, throughout the film Rosalee retains control of her dream. She doesn’t seem frightened by the often-violent events even when the other women (and men) are hysterical or angry. She remains assured and powerful, and chooses to identify with the wolves at the end. There is something quite chilling about this.
In the DVD commentary, Jordan notes the difficulty of having to create the look of the film on a limited budget, “having to create a fairytale forest out of essentially "twelve trees. The visual design was an integral part of the script. It was written and imagined with a heightened sense of reality in mind.” Perhaps because of the budget, the set has an unreal quality that enhances the dreaminess.
FIG 1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Company_of_Wolves [accessed on 5/10/11]
http://homecinema.thedigitalfix.com/content.php?contentid=59063 [accessed on 05/10/11]
Carter, A (1979) The Bloody Chamber, UK: Victor Gollanz
Neil Jordan (2005), audio commentary to The Company of Wolves DVD
Watson, L (2005) ScreenOnline Review: online at http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/515281/ [accessed on 05/10/11]
Thomson, L (2003) New Times Review online: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/company_of_wolves/ [accessed on 05/10/11]