Peter’s Retro Rewind: The Company of Wolves (1984)

March 19, 2013

The Company of Wolves Posterby Peter Nielsen

”Little girls, this seems to say, never stop upon your way. Never trust a stranger, friend. No-one knows how it will end. As you’re pretty, so be wise! Wolves may lurk in every guise. Now, as then, ‘tis simple truth… sweetest tongue has sharpest tooth.”

This particular passage is the moral/warning from “Le Petit Chaperon Rouge”, the original Little Red Riding Hood story by Charles Perrault. It’s read in a voiceover at the end of the movie, just as the end credits start to roll.

I’ve always liked that part, along with the main theme by George Fenton, who did the score for “The Company of Wolves”. It’s a very beautiful and haunting score and, as I stated, I especially like the main theme. Mr. Fenton has also composed the score for The Crucible, Cry Freedom, Groundhog Day and Memphis Belle among many!

The movie is based on the short story collection “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter, who was also the co-writer of the screenplay along with the director, Neal Jordan (Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, Michael Collins).

COMPANY OF WOLVESIt’s a weird fairytale kind of horror story set within a dream. It’s filled with symbolism and folklore, but it’s primarily the story of a young girl’s journey from being a child, discovering her own sexuality, to adulthood. There are lots of sexual undertones, but they are never presented “out loud” in the story though, but are only suggested very subtle throughout. This is where the symbolism comes in!

The story starts in modern times where Rosaleen, who has a stomach-ache, is in her bed sleeping. The dream she’s having will become the main story. Rosaleen is played by Sarah Patterson who hasn’t really done much since then. In the dream she lives in some sort of medieval fairytale forest with her parents, played by David Warner (The Omen, Tron) and Tusse Silberg (Gorky Park).

When her sister is killed by wolves and her parents are stricken with grief, she goes to live with her Granny for a while. Granny is portrayed very well by Angela Lansbury, who’s known from numerous roles in both movies and TV-shows, but, I suppose, mostly from “Murder, She Wrote”! Granny is a very nice old lady, but she also has a slight sinister touch.

She helps Rosaleen and teaches her about adult life but also tells her stories, warning her of strangers and to never stray from the paths of the forest or she’ll be lost forever. “A wolf may be more than he seems, he may come in many disguises! Worst kind of wolves are hairy on the inside and when they bite you… They drag you with them to hell!”

A stern look from GrannyThe stories are horrific tales including werewolves and even the Devil himself makes a brief appearance in one of them. He’s played by Terence Stamp in an un-credited role, by the way! The first story is about a newlywed couple where, on their wedding-night, the groom disappears not to return until years later.

Outraged that his bride has since re-married and given birth, he starts to transform into a wolf in front of his terrified wife and her children. This scene is a messy one and ends with a severed head floating around in a bucket of milk. The bride is played by Kathryn Pogson (Brazil) and I’m sure you’ll recognize the groom, who’s played by Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire).

A very disturbing and weird wedding-sceneIn the same village as Rosaleen lives in, is also a boy whom she’s known all her life and he’s a bit smitten with her. Well, actually more than a bit… They spend a lot of time in the forest, going for long walks and such. The boy is nice enough, but Rosaleen is not interested in him in that way and just toys with him, making him chase her for a kiss, one which she has no intention in giving him anyway.

Later, when she’s going through the forest on her way to Granny’s house with a basket of food and wine, she meets the Huntsman. He’s very seductive and handsome and this is where her adult feelings of lust and love start to grow and get real. In the role of the Huntsman is Micha Bergese, an actor you’ve probably never heard of. He’s only done small parts in a couple of TV-series and a handful of movies. He’s not bad here though!

The sets in “The Company of Wolves” are also worth a mention, because they are very impressive. The movie was done on a relatively small budget, but Neal Jordan still managed to make the forest feel almost claustrophobic with its semi-darkness and dense trees. It’s like not even the sunlight can penetrate the foliage. It’s definitely very fairytale-like! Very mystical, and it’s almost like something taken out of a story by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the famous German storytellers!

That is one nasty hair-ball...The story itself? I wrote earlier that it was primarily a story about a girl coming of age. Yeah, well, it’s not as straightforward as that… You have to look between the lines, so to speak, to get it all. It’s a “stories within stories” kind of story, if you know what I mean. The modern times setting is the frame for the dream-story, which in turn is the frame for the stories told within it.

And all throughout you get little hints as to what it’s all about. It’s a complex story and not for everyone. If you’re looking for a straight-up horror movie or indeed a cute little fairytale love-story, you’re definitely in the wrong movie-theatre! It’s not a movie you throw on to have running in the background, because you won’t understand it if you do! If you instead like a movie that makes you think to follow the story-line… Well then, step right in! I’ve saved you a seat right next to me! I don’t mind watching it again!

So my friends… have you seen “The Company of Wolves”? If you have, please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! I’d love to know what you thought of it. Until next time…


  Bonus: Theme music by George Fenton

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