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La Bête du Gévaudan

The Beast of Gévaudan

France/Belgium 2003
produced by
Alain Bordiec, Georges Campana for Le Sabre, RTBF, K2, France 3, Arte, TV5
directed by Patrick Volson
starring Sagamore Stévenin, Léa Bosco, Jean-Francois Stévenin, Guillaume Gallienne, Vincent Winterhalter, Marilyne Even, Maxime Leroux, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Isabelle Leprince, Boris Napes, Sabina Legnerová, Rostavil Trtik, Zuzana Hodkova, Zdenek Dusek, Hanus Bor, Louise Szpindel, Jaroslav Vízner, Gérard Dessalles, Borivoj Navrátil, Marta Ondrackova, Bohuslav René Patzelt, Christine Pauls, Mahulena Bocanová, Rudolf Pellar
screenplay by Brigitte Peskine, additional dialogue by Daniel Vigne, music by Angélique Nachon, Jean-Claude Nachon, special effects by Roman Tudzaroff

Beast of Gévaudan

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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France 1767: A wolf-like beast is roaming the countryside near the village Gévaudan, raping and murdering local girls. The Catholic villagers think this must be the work of a werewolf and are quick to accuse local miller and herb collector Chastel (Jean-Francois Stévenin) of the crimes, mainly because he's a former protestant and he owns too much land for the villagers' liking. Especially the local priest Poucher (Guillaume Gallienne) and his mother (Zuzana Hodkova) are eager to put the blame on him.

Only the local doctor Rampal (Sagamore Stévenin) is convinced otherwise and helps to set Chastel free after he was already convicted in a church-backed trial. At the same time, Rampal is of course romantically involved with Chastel's daughter Francounette (Léa Bosco) ...

When French King Louis XV learns about the Gévaudan beast, he has a hunter, Beauterne (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), sent to the region, and Beauterne is quick to shoot a wolf and present it to the Royal, even though more and more evidence emerges that the killings were not done by a wolf at all but by a man dressed up as a wolf. And really, after the wolf has already been killed, the killings go on, and to not lose face with the local populace, the powers-that-be decide to put the blame on Chastel after all and have him thrown into prison once more. Rampal though continues his investigations, and eventually comes up with de Morangies (Vincent Winterthaler), a local popular Count, who does have some peculiar sexual preferences though ... but by the time Rampal has finally figured this out, de Morangies is already closing in on Francounette, and Rampal arrives only just in time and manages to shoot him inthe head. To his disappointment though, local authorities decide to hush everything up.

The villagers led by their priest Poucher, believing that the beast is still at large, decide to lynch Chastel, and for good this time, but once they reach his home they find him in tears because a wolf - a real one this time - has killed his beloved wife (Isabelle Leprince), which changes their attitude towards him, especially the priest's, but which also drives him insane, making him set fire to his home. Ultimately, he manages to track down and kill the wolf, but he remains insane all the same ...

 

Based onthe same French legend as Brotherhood of the Wolf from 2001, The Beast of Gévaudan is down-to-earth where that movie is excessive, tries to come across as a sombre murder mystery where that movie goes into fantasy territory.  However, that doesn't necessarily make The Beast of Gévaudan a good movie, because actually, it isn't: The film loses itself in subplots when it should have been stringent, it's deprived of each and any atmosphere, lead Sagamore Stévenin is just not cut out to carry the film, Guillaume Gallienne and Vincent Winterthaler are both pale baddies, but most of all, despite its many murders and such, the film is pretty dull. Granted, The Beast of Gévaudan is kind of interesting when compared to Brotherhood of the Wolf, but otherwise it has little to recommend it.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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