Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves is one of my favourite films, and whenever I admit this I get strange looks. It is not an easy film to like because it is so blatantly symbolic and esoteric. I do wish the silly reviews I've read about this film would stop focusing on the "special effects", and how they are outdated for today (the film was made in the 1980s). This is hardly the most interesting aspect of the film and I personally think it is one of the most visually striking films I have ever seen. It has the same opaque quality of dreams, where you can't really trust what you are seeing and where everything seems to be filtered by a haze and a plethora of symbols.
The film is based on two short stories by Angela Carter, which she originally published in 1979 as part of a collection of rewritings of traditional fairy tales: "The Company of Wolves" and "Wolf-Alice". If you have never read Carter's short stories, you have done yourself a great disservice. Some of my most enjoyable reading hours have been spent with her words, curled up in bed. Jordan and Carter wrote the screenplay for this film one afternoon, in his kitchen. I rather like that story.
The film is also an adaptation of Perrault's original "Little Red Riding Hood", which was not a fairy tale for children, but a courtly and aristocratic cautionary tale for young women. What I love about this film is that it says all the things Perrault's fairy tale does not. It does not do for little red riding hood (here, renamed Rosaleen by Jordan) to be a passive little lamb, a thing of consumption and enjoyment for somebody else. She wants to run with the wolves. It does not do for the big bad wolf (here turned into a charming werewolf) to be so bad. The wolf is tender, he cries, he whimpers, he is lonely. In Jordan's world, a witch is a betrayed woman and a handsome aristocrat is a cheating cad. Things are never as they seem, and that is precisely the point.
Has anyone seen this film? It seems to elicit such conflicting opinions, I'd love to hear from anyone who has seen it.