Le Pacte des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf)

Le Pacte des Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf) posterRated R
Running Time: 146 Minutes
French with English subtitles.
Directed by Christophe Gans.
Screenplay by Stephane Cabel.
Based on the actual French legend of the Beast of Gevaudan.


High concept? Hard to define. This film borrows from several genres. Perhaps something like “The Hound of the Baskervilles” meets “Dangerous Liaisons” meets “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.”

The Beast of the film is a metaphor for the anger of the French peasantry in the years preceeding the French Revolution. This overall theme is touched on at times, but don’t fear–this is not a history lesson.

The hero is a French artist/warrior named Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) who borrows from both Leonardo DiCaprio (sketchmaking in “Titanic”) and Brad Pit (the whole “Legends of the Fall” look). His sidekick is a kung-fu fighting Iroquois Indian named Mani (Mark Dacascos), who says about three words during the whole film–probably because of the “magic dust” in his bracelet and his secret stash of peyote buttons.

I love these huge sprawling pseudo mythic films. There is definitely a French sensibility at work here as well. The cinematography is lush and the actresses are even lusher. All the women are beautiful, from the shepherdess, to Sylvia the gypsy witch, to the bordello beauty who’s actually a secret spy sent by the Pope.

However, the film was a bit long, and some judicious editing would have made it a good 2-hour feature. The audience I attended it with seemed to like it, but practically sprang from their seats when the closing music started–even before end credits began rolling.


The year 1794. Chevalier Gregoire de Fronsac and his blood brother, the Iroquois Indian, Mani, have traveled from the French royal court to the remote province of Gevaudan. They have been sent by the king to investigate and report on the progress made in tracking a ravenous beast that is terrifying the region. If it is killed, Fronsac, who until just recently made his living as a naturalist in New France, is expected to taxidermy the creature and bring it back to the royal court.

The Beast is thought to be a normal wolf by some, and a demon by others. It is extremely intelligent, three times larger than the largest wolf, and only preys on peasant women and children. The king and even the local gentry don’t give a hoot about peasants, but the fact that the beast has gone uncaptured by the king’s men for so long is undermining the king’s image as a capable ruler.

When they arrive at Gevaudan, Mani and Fronsac are put up by the local gentry, and allowed to tour a nearby abbey that has been converted into a hospital. Here, the maimed survivors of Beast attacks supply them with clues.

Mani gets into two fights with a gang of local hunters, but Fronsac doesn’t pitch in since Mani has kung-fu powers like Bruce-Lee and Jackie Chan rolled into one. Instead, Fronsac spends his time wooing the lovely red-haired Marianne, only daughter of the Francois family they are staying with.

At several points in the film Mani shares significant looks with Sylvia (the gorgeous Monica Bellucci ), a gypsy girl who hangs with the hunters. Nothing ever comes of it, though. I have a strong feeling that in the original script they had more of a romance going, but their scenes were cut by the director for fear of going into the three hour range.

As soon as Fronsac and Mani arrive, a huge hunt is staged, and the hunters kill what looks like a hundred wolves, throwing them into a huge pile that takes up the screen, and is sure to send any nature lover who watches into a spastic fit. It’s all the worse, since they have failed to kill the true beast.

So, worn out, and not making any headway with Marianne, Fronsac takes Mani and they head off with the other nobles to a high-class brothel, where Fronsac meets with a mysterious woman who turns out to be an incognito spy for the Pope. This is the big sex scene in the movie. It ends with a lovely MATCH DISSOLVE from the woman’s curvaceous body to the snowy slopes surrounding Gevaudan where the Beast still prowls free.

A new official is sent by the king, who makes Fronsac taxidermy a regular wolf and gussy it up to look like a ferocious man-killer. Fronsac goes back to court and presents the trophy. The king is pleased and offers him a new commission in Africa, where Fronsac wants to go exploring, but as nice as the offer is, Fronsac finds himself drawn back to Gevaudan. He discovers at court that someone in Gevaudan is promoting a book about the Beast that claims the Beast is a holy sign from God that the King should be overthrown. Fronsac theorizes the beast has a master and the secret is to find that master. He and Mani go back.


Mani and Fronsac ambush the beast and hurt it. Mani tracks it to a remote country mansion, but hunters attack Mani and kill him while the sultry Sylvia watches on.

Fronsac goes crazy with grief and encounters some of the hunters, killing several, but cannot finish the job because he has to hurry back and cremate Mani’s ashes at dawn, according to Iroquois custom.

Before he can go back and kill the rest of the hunters and destroy the beast, Fronsac is imprisoned unexpectedly by a priest and the Francois family who had seemed friendly before. He is going to be hung.

The sexy bordello spy bribes her way to Fronsac’s cell and gives him a sleeping potion that makes him appear dead. Fronsac is buried and Marianne, who played coy for so long, shows her love and goes crazy with grief.

It turns out that the local gentry and the priest are part of a secret society known as The Brotherhood of the Wolf. They employ the hunters as their henchmen. The Beast is an animal that Marianne’s own brother, Jean, brought back from Africa and twisted into a Frankenstein creature through black magic.

Jean lost an arm in Africa during a hunt, and Marianne nursed him back to health. Since then, though, he’s gone mad and fallen in love with his own sister. Jean rapes and beats her, leaving her for dead.

Meanwhile, Fronsac is dug back up and revived. He and the spy drum up a regiment of King’s militia from somewhere and stage a surprise attack on the Brotherhood during a secret ceremony. Most are arrested and killed, but Fronsac and Jean (who now has a Frankenstein-style arm) find themselves alone and fight to the death.

Fronsac survives and makes his way back to the Francois castle, where he revives Marianne with some magic powder of Mani’s. The two of them sail off for parts unknown.

* The film is book-ended by an aristocratic narrator who saw everything happen, and helped Fronsac and Mani during his youth. He is recording it just before the peasants break into his castle and take him to the Guillotine.