In 18th-century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend Mani are sent to the Gevaudan province at the king's behest to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.
In 1764 something was stalking the mountains of central France. A 'beast' that pounced on humans and animals with terrible ferocity. Indeed they beast became so notorious that the King of France dispatched envoys to find out what was happening and to kill the creature. By the end, the Beast of Gevaudan had killed over 100 people.To this day, no one is entirely sure what it was, a wolf? a hyena? or something supernatural? The Beast is a popular myth in France, albeit one rooted firmly in reality; somewhat surprisingly it is little known to the outside world, and perhaps incredibly it has never been made into a movie. Until now. Based on the true story of the Beast of the Gevaudan that terrorized France in the eighteenth century, the movie aims to tell first and explain afterwards. In the first part, a special envoy of the King of France, altogether biologist, explorer and philosopher, arrives in the Gevaudan region, in the mountainous central part of France. The Beast has been ...Written by
The Canadian 3-disc DVD (released in October 2002) and the United States 2-disc Special Edition DVD (released in August 2008) features a 151 minute director's cut with the following scenes added to the middle of the film before and after Fronsac returns to Paris:
Right after Fronsac has constructed the fake beast for De Bauternes, he goes to the brothel, gets drunk and confesses to Sylvia that the beast caught by De Bauternes is a fake.
An long steadicam shot from Jean-Francois' POV as he sneaks through the brothel and into Sylvia's room, where he finds a sketch of Sylvia naked that Fronsac has drawn. He laughs because it's just what he needs to drive Marianne away from Fronsac.
Fronsac arrives at the De Morangias' castle to see Marianne one last time before returning to Paris. The guards tell him he is no longer welcome on orders of the Countess and that Marianne is sick. Jean-Francois turns up and tells the guards and his mother to let Fronsac in. Jean-Francois leads him into the great hall where Marianne waits. She tells Fronsac she doesn't want to see him again and tosses the naked sketch of Sylvie onto the floor. Fronsac storms out, knocking Jean-Francois to the floor on his way.
After the second girl is killed down in the pit there is a scene inside the Church where Sylvia kneels down next to Marianne as she prays. She tells Marianne the Fronsac truly only loves her. Sardis watches Sylvia suspiciously as she leaves.
A scene on the docks as Fronsac and Mani are loading supplies for the trip to Africa. Thomas D'Apacher turns up and tells Fronsac that the beast continued attacking after he and De Beauternes left. D'Apacher cannot find anyone to go on the hunt with him and he wants to try to hunt this time using Mani's methods. At first Fronsac refuses, but D'Apacher provides him with a love letter from Marianne in which she asks for the secret meeting at her nanny's house. Fronsac agrees to return.
When it is cold and wet and foreboding outside, leaving one to fend for a good escape into fantasy and a time gone by, then this movie DELIVERS. Say whatever you want about miniscule "holes" in the story, or the tedium applied to the cinematography or the excessive use of slow camera effects in the fight sequences, THIS IS ENTERTAINMENT.
This movie carries the viewer into a whole new world- not like the one inhabited by Hobbits and Elves, and other creatures that obviously DO NOT exist- but rather a world of old France where the people are stranger than fiction and the times are changing. Fables meet their demise AND their verification in this film.
It's not a movie I would call a "favorite", but it IS a movie that I consider a "guilty pleasure" on a day that affords me three hours to slip out of my existence and follow a satisfying and well-presented fantasy. Every millimeter of every frame is a work of art, and that alone is worth getting lost in.
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