Wow, they certainly tossed just about everything into the pot in making this one, including the French Revolution. "Le Pacte des Loups" starts off as a exquisitely photographed costume drama/horror flick set in 18th century France with a poor peasant girl being hunted down by an unseen beast. My first thought that this was a beautiful film, more reminiscent of a Jane Austen period piece than a horror flick from Hammer Studio. But then our hero, Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his faithful Indian companion, Mani (Mark Dacasos), show up and we suddenly discover the film is also a cross between "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." However, since this is movie based on a legend regarding a huge wolf ravaging the French countryside, this hardly seems the time to insist upon a standard of realism.
The collaboration between director Christophe Gans and cinematographer Dan Laustsen results in some beautiful and memorable camera shots (most notably, as the camera tracks up a woman's nude body it morphs into snow covered terrain), often playing with time and movement to great effect. In the deleted scenes Gans provides a sort of mini-commentary on the film that is quite interesting in terms of setting up the film's dynamic, especially regarding the opening sequence originally conceived for the film and the scene that replace it. Laustsen is the cinematographer on upcoming "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," and my assumption is that when I see that film I will have a better sense of who contributed the most to "Brotherhood of the Wolf."
The film was edited Xavier Loutreuil and Sébastien Prangère, with David Wu doing the Hong Kong kung fu fight sequences, which are impresive because they do not, for the most part, violate the realism of the time, which is a way of saying the wire work is extremely limited and understated. I also like the way Fronsac's love triangle is color coded: Marianne de Morangias (Émilie Dequenne) is a redhead often dressed in a red uniform while the raven haired Sylvia (Monica Bellucci) always wears black. The rouge/noir opposition works well in contrast to the blues, browns and yellows which serve as the palatte for most of the film.
My only real complaint is actually the traditional complaint one has after watching a Hammer horror film: the beast, when we finally get to see it, is something of a disappointment. However, I will allow that this is probably due as much to my heightened expectations given the quality level of the rest of the film more than to the limitations of CIG technology. The second time I watched the film this aspects was less bothersome to me, but still something of a disappointment. An action/horror/fantasy/thriller/romance like "Brotherhood of the Wolf" is not going to be embraced by everyone, but certainly fans of those genres will admire the ambition of this film, the most beautiful of its type we have ever seen.