Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wolfhound (2007)

Russian made fantasy film concerning Wolfhound who seeks to get revenge on the people who killed his family and his tribe and threw him into slavery. He ends up meeting a princess and...well thats the story.

I don't know if this is a great film, I really don't care, Frankly the film grabbed on an emotional level and took me back to the place I go when I read good swords and sorcery novels. From the point where we see Wolfhound and his bat, I was hooked. More so once he started his solo assault on the castle that is the first great (yes great) set piece of the film. No one is making films like this any more...or maybe ever. This film has the high adventure of old Hollywood fantasy films but mixes it with a sense of reality and gravitas that is missing in pretty much every sword and sorcery fantasy movie. As much fun as the earlier films were they always had a sense of dress up. In most cases we were not in these mythical kingdoms, we were on sets. Lord of the Rings came along and blew that all to hell. Now everything feels unreal...or did until this film came along.

Set in a time when "the gods still walked among men" the film has the feel of a rural Russia. We are in these places, the towns, the forests, the castles and the temples. These are real places. The characters seem real as well. To be certain they are not real people but the fantasy equivalent, but they still feel as though they belong in the world they inhabit. This is a world where magic works and for most of the film its kept to a minimum so that the magic we see is special (indeed the film is reasonably free of CGI which only really shows up for the final show down between the various factions, and while the CGI at the end isn't LOTR perfect, it gets the job done).

The story, based in some form on a novel or novels, is nicely dense. The film doesn't breeze along mindlessly, it is heading in a certain direction and it takes its time going where its going so that layers and characters are built up. Many minor characters are given enough of a presence so that when you meet them later in the film, or see them in the background you have a sense that the character is some one other than soldier number 2. If there is a flaw it is perhaps an odd side trip to a river community. While it allows for some information to be brought in to the plot it isn't wholly necessary (perhaps what happens there will have effects in the promised sequels).

Also helping things is a dynamite score which is often hauntingly beautiful. I may have to try and track down a cd if one exists. The music is often married to some very beautiful sequences to stunning effect, I'm particularly thinking of the song of the prisoner who changed his fate and the sequence when the princess heads off to meet her bridegroom the latter is a beautiful sequence that is cross cut with the bad guys getting ready to attack.

I love the film. I can't speak rationally about it since even though its flawed (the opening sequence where the villains attack and kill Wolfhound's family is clichéd and has some really bad wigs) I fell under its spell. Its a grand adventure film of the highest order. Its the sort of film they don't make any more- or never really did.

You'll forgive me I want to go into great detail about the film but I think it would be better if you just saw it for yourself. Its wonderful.

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