Monday, February 15, 2016

Sweet or Bitter Desires

Review: Blood & Chocolate, with Hugh Dancy and Agnes Bruckner

The werewolf, fighting a dual nature, troubled by the demands of both human hungers and pack loyalties, is a theme that has been played by many, notably Herman Hesse in Steppenwolf. The novel Blood & Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, on which the film's screenplay is based, was even titled in reference to a Steppenwolf quote: "I had the taste of blood and chocolate in my mouth, one as hateful as the other."

The teen loup-garou of Klause's novel adds puberty and normal teenage angst to her troubles. The novel has Vivian Gandillon living in a suburb in Maryland when her father dies, leaving the pack leaderless. 

In the movie, set in Bucharest, Bruckner's Vivian is an American ex-pat whose parents were killed by a human mob in the States. We get some clues that Vivian blames herself for their deaths. Living now with her aunt in Romania, she is being groomed as mate to Gabriel (played by Oliver Martinez), the much-older pack leader. who trades in each wife for a new one on a 5-year cycle. (This behavior, so un-wolf-like, is never explained. It appears to serve mainly to show that Gabriel is more of an animal than a "civilized man.")

In both stories, additional conflict is supplied by the advent of Aidan, a non-werewolf ("meat") boy near Vivian's age, whom she meets and falls in love with. In both, a rogue loup-garou who has given in to his wolf nature commits a murder that threatens to expose the pack.

Vivian's feelings of guilt about the death of her parents, her confusion about her feelings for Aidan, and her determination not to kill in the persona of the wolf, are presented in such a light-handed way that the viewer might miss the deeper conflict going on here. It is the same as Hesse's Steppenwolf fought: the desire not to allow the animal in our natures to rule the human spirit.

Liner Notes:

  • There are apparently many wolf images to be seen in Bucharest. The film includes a number of them; some in the foreground, and some as fleeting glimpses. 
  • Multiple members of the cast and crew were named Vlad or Radu; single instances of Zoltan, Bogdan, Silviu, and Razvan also scrolled past in the end credits. Obviously, the location shots in the city of Bucharest were not the only thing giving local "flavor" to the film.