Recently released on DVD is Neil Jordan’s dreamy fairy-tale film, The Company of Wolves (1984), which was co-written by Angela Carter, and is based on her short story collection The Bloody Chamber. I was impressed at how well this film stands up to the passage of time. It is a series of interpolated stories, which are told as the dreams of a pretty young girl, Roseleen (Sarah Patterson). Angela Lansbury is terrific as the crotchety grandma with the fox fur that snarls. There is no linear narrative; this film replicates dream-time, with its recurring characters, themes, and its setting in the dark forest with the ever-present howling of the wolves.
Grandma’s three rules: “Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple, and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle” establishes the underlying strict morality that permeate most fairy tales, and the film enjoys breaking each of these restrictions with some disturbing results.
The DVD is presented in an attractive box, and has a nice interactive menu, but beside the interview/commentary by Neil Jordan, there is nothing more in the way of features. Jordan’s commentary is interesting, and he details a lot about the casting, the production, and his and Carter’s ideas about the film. He constantly states that his film is not a horror film, and I think the boy doth protest too much. There are definite horror tropes in the film (despite Jordan’s opinion to the contrary): sexual awakening, fear of the unknown/stranger, and the primal forest, and the transformation sequences are blatantly gory and horrific.
The production and design are wonderful. There are stunning sequences, such as the transformation of a party of well-heeled toffs into a pack of wolves–seen mostly through a shattered mirror–and the decapitation of a werewolf where the head flies through the air, lands in a bucket of milk, and the human head floats up out of the liquid, now tinged pink from blood. Fantastic!
In his second film Jordan revealed his talent for the macabre, the surreal, and the odd, along with a true visual instinct. It reminds me that Jordan is one of the better Irish directors in the world today.
(This review refers to the new UK/Irish release of the DVD)