“If there is a beast in men, it meets its match in women too.”
Pretty Rosaleen (Sarah Patterson) has a surreal dream. Her bossy sister, Alice (Georgia Slowe) is eaten by Rosaleen’s playthings, leaving Rosaleen to spend extended time with her Granny (Angela Lansbury). Granny is full of advice for her remaining granddaughter, but Rosaleen’s fierce nature may throw her in the path of some of the very creatures that her Granny warned were trouble.
A disjointed though disturbing story, The Company of Wolves appears to be a distillation of delirium. A dark telling of wolf lore, the film serves possibly as a fever dream. As Rosaleen tosses and turns throughout, so do the stories and horrifying visions of wolves that send her head spinning. A non-psychological diagnosis, one could argue that the whole movie is actually a drawn-out nightmare. Disturbed sleep or obtrusive nightmares are sometimes patterns that imply a more serious diagnosis, but as this is our only introduction to Rosaleen, there is not enough here for us to make a case for a particular mental disorder.
A Little Red
Some parts Little Red Riding Hood, some parts disgusting wolf transformation, The Company of Wolves plays with the psychology of its heroine and viewers by using the color red. Colors have several meanings and are sometimes used in visual arts to convey “subliminal” messaging related to emotion. Here, we are given reminders of Rosaleen’s fervor through the color red.
A color that symbolizes bleeding, peril, and danger, red is the liquid that flows from a wound (ya know, blood). The danger posed by a pack of wolves is carnage, or a gory death.
When someone suffers from fever, their body heats up and often their cheeks flush in response to the heat. Heat, in fact, can be illustrated with red as well. If one assumes that Rosaleen has some sort of illness, the bright red color of her lips and cheeks as she navigates her twisted dreamscape conveys this wordlessly.
The idea of the young girl who out-foxes a wolf is inherently sexual. The wolf is portrayed often by a man, and The Company of Wolves is no exception (^see the video). With a cloak symbolizing sexual transformation, Rosaleen tempts the huntsman into transforming into his true form of a wolf. There are other moments – such as Rosaleen’s bright red makeup and a white rose turning red – that whisper of seduction.
In a movie fraught with confusion and tension, red is about the clearest part of the story. The intermingling of the themes is allowed with one clear thread running through it: RED. This color could suggest that sexual awakening itself is a confusing time; that transitioning from a girl to a woman is a confusing time; and it could even pay a small nudge to menstruation. The Company of Wolves could be an omen. As sexual awakening occurs – a feverish process, undoubtedly – a person has to be aware of their predatory instincts, and be aware of the predatory instincts they could incite within others.