Valentine's Day in a foreign land. We had no other plans, so the missus and i decided to catch a movie. As it happens, the movie we had wanted to catch was sold out, no doubt by the droves of teenagers that so supported the Harry Potter franchise ;) We would have to catch the Lightning Thief another time then.
I had seen The Wolfman being previewed on TV and had not been so much inclined to watch the movie, if not for the presence of two really great actors, Benicio Del toro and Sir Anthony Hopkins.
The movie has its gory moments, which sharply contrasted to the dull, rainy grey of the landscape. Overall, i enjoyed the movie and thought the story developed at its own pace, even though some parts were slow moving. The movie made me nostalgic and reminded me of those early black and white movies of Dracula and The Mummy.
Spoiler Alert: For those who have not seen the movie, do not read on.
The Wolfman Experience for Me:
The Beast Within
I felt that the exploration of the beast within the man to be a really prominent theme here. We have the physical manifestation of the obvious, the werewolf/monster itself. However, the actions of John Talbot (played by Anthony Hopkins) also makes me question if the beast without is not just a reflection of the beast within.
John Talbot having killed his son Ben, his wife and God knows how many others appear to be unremorseful of his actions. He also infected his only son left knowing or unknowingly with the Lycan Curse. Yet he shows no sadness or regrets, but taunts his son does nothing to help him. John Talbot also seems to have been in love or desires the presence of the wife of his late son Ben, which i felt was just a tad inappropriate to say the least.
His son Lawrence (played by Del Toro) appears to be more in touch with the consequences of his actions and what he has become. Lawrence had requested the crowd watching him in the asylum to kill him. He had also no anger or regrets when Gwen (his late brother’s wife) finally kills him at the end. He was relieved at the end of the curse, and that he would no longer be a threat to anyone.
Another point of interest for me was the way that John Talbot handled the Were-curse, and how it differed from how his son Lawrence handled it.
I felt John had thought he had managed to control the curse by locking himself in the dungeon every full moon. I believe his actions were influenced by both his character and in some part of his station in life as a lord or noble, and his sport (hunting).
As nobleman, he may have been brought up with an air of superiority over others, and his role as a hunter gave him a sense of elevated pride and feeling of control over circumstances. The trophies of wild and ferocious animals in his estate also belay his desire to let all who would see the measure of his skill to dominate.
Lawrence on the other hand, is a stage actor. His vocation necessitates that he place himself into the shoes of another to successfully portray the roles he was given. This would have given Lawrence insight into how others feel and behave, making him emotionally more sympathetic and compassionate towards others.
Hence, although both father and son were afflicted with the curse, they reacted differently to it.
The Measure of Courage
I could also sense the exploration of true courage in this movie. This could be seen by Lawrence trying to do the right thing even as he struggled with the inevitability of death, the prospect of killing his father and put things right to prevent further tragedy. I believe his resolve came when he realized the damage did and could still do as a werewolf.
John Talbot on the other hand had earlier realized this truth of the beast’s destructive effects after he killed those who accompanied him on the hunt many years ago. I think that he partly did not have the courage to kill himself. I felt his ego also affected him that there would be nothing of the wild that he could not master.
However courageous John Talbot was in mastering the beast within, he probably did not see its insidious effects changing his spirit and mind through the passing of time. He comes across the movie to me as an unfeeling man with no regard of consequence.
The Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) while courageous in the pursuit of his criminal/prey had no courage to end it all when he realised that he too was afflicted with the were-curse.
This has enforced to me again that the courage to face death, is never an easy one. I can attribute this to our primal survival instincts of self preservation, or to the remembrance of things left unfinished in life. Life is LIFE, and to let go of that is never ever a simple decision.
Consequence and Legacy
I have oft heard of the phrase the ‘sins of the father’. It also makes me think about the kind of legacies we leave our children. In the movie, John Talbot’s legacy to his children was one of madness and death. It left me with a renewed belief that our actions and beliefs do leave an impression on others, whether intentional or not.
I felt the intention to pit the father against the son to be an especially cunning part of the plot. It effectively allowed me to see that family ties and legacies are not the full measure of influence on a person.
That Lawrence would do the right thing (though not always the easy thing), shows that the decision to do what is right is not determined by blood or genetics. This contrast would not have been more evident if the two werewolves were unrelated.
The Call of the Wild
I also felt the movie explored the idea that we have in each of us, desires that are most dark and primal. The desire to unleash these primal urges lurk within us all. I too have experienced these desires. John Talbot’s ‘advice’ to Lawrence to let the beast run free reflects our thoughts maybe at one stage of our life or another to just let the anger/sadness etc just overtake and consume us.
We may come to a point where it is tempting to just loose our innermost fires and burn all who oppose us, to hell with the consequences!
And the effects of unleashing the beast appears to be most exhilarating. The heightened sense of smell, sound and sight. The thrill of the kill and wanton slaughter. The primal joyful madness of that moment. To be unfettered and free!
However, there are always consequences. For John Talbot, it would be the greatest loss of his existence-the death of his wife by his own hand. For Lawrence, the blood of innocents on his hands as he rampaged through the streets of London, killing and maiming.
An Anger most Bitter
Anger is one which i feel has close relevance to this movie. For John Talbot, the anger at himself, at his lack of mastery over the beast, could have made him the man he was to become. I felt John Talbot never forgave himself and the anger turned inward made him a bitter man, and an unfeeling one. For how could he feel or dare to love again? Knowing that it could be all take away again in a moment of laxity.
When John Talbot killed his loyal manservant Singh, it was to signal that he had finally embraced the destructive nature of the beast, or maybe it is the beast had finally conquered his mind and soul.
If that is so, then the names of the beast are many: Anger, Bitterness and Pride.
A Love most Primal
I was disappointed that i did not have the opportunity to see if Love could really overcome the beast. The moment of recognition at the end when Lawrence stayed his hand/claw when he could have killed Gwen was a poignant one. She had gotten through to him somehow and something within Lawrence recognized what Gwen meant to him even in his monstrous form.
I believe he would not have harmed her in any way. And that Love would have cured the beast better than the silver bullet.
To conclude, I would give this movie a 7 out of 10, for the insight it gave me, for which i am most grateful ;)