“Wolf” explores species dysmorphia, where one starts to believe that they have transformed into an animal or were born in the wrong body. Humans metamorphosing into animals is not unexplored territory. Shapeshifting humans have been integral to several folklores, indicative of our obsession with becoming untamed creatures. “Wolf” had the potential to dive deep into the unheard whimpers of the residents of a mental asylum, but it chose to concentrate more on the performance. George MacKay is brilliant as the wolf, and so is Lily-Rose Depp as the wildcat. The risky territory could have made the film appear to be a caricature, but it manages to maintain the temperament and emotionally connect with the audience.
‘Wolf’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Jacob was convinced that he had a wolf spirit. He crawled on all fours, whiffed to sharpen his senses, and howled to express his agony. His parents were concerned with their son’s behavior, especially after he attacked his brother. They wanted to get him treated, and they admitted him to a mental asylum where there were patients suffering from the same disorder. Jacob respected his parents. He wanted to get better for them, though he knew that he could not be tamed. Amidst the animated crowd, Jacob held a stoic presence. His skin was pale, and his eyes were surrounded by a darkly pigmented patch of skin. He refused to express his wolf instincts and whispered to himself that he was a boy, not an animal. But the suppression of his desire to howl and crawl resulted in a series of sleepless nights. He left his meal untouched when he was provided with a knife and fork.
Rufus, who believed he was a German Shepard, tried to befriend Jacob because of their similarities. He was convinced that he was getting better and would be able to leave the facility soon. Even though he controlled his urges, he sometimes gave in to licking food off a bowl or crawling on all fours. They were treated by Dr. Angeli, who was sympathetic to the crowd, and Dr. Mann, whose treatments would often involve instilling fear and doubt in the patients. He forced a patient to climb a tree because he believed he was a squirrel. He broke his nail in the process, but that was Mann’s way of teaching him that he was a man who did not have the skills of a rodent. When Judith refused to follow instructions, Mann forced her to flee the building. She screamed, aware of the fact that she would fail to fly. Frightened to lose her life, she admitted she was a girl, not a parrot. Mann read out Jacob’s journal entry, where he described how his human body would limit him. He was constantly reminded of how he was born in the wrong body when he tried to move, and his knuckles would hurt. He tried to sniff, but his nose lacked structure, and he did not have an elegant long tail. The journal entry was indicative of body dysmorphia, but the psychologists around them were only obsessively repeating that they were humans and must accept it without delving deep into their condition and related disorders. Nathalie Biancheri chose to not dabble in the nitty-gritty of psychology and instead focused on understanding the sentiments of the patients. From the perspective of the patients, the mental asylum was a zoo where they were caged and taught to behave like humans and perform certain tricks that would make humans appreciate them.
The Relationship Between The Wolf And The Wildcat
After days of suppressing his wolf instincts, Jacob softly howled at night. His spirit took control of his body, and no matter how hard he tried to stop himself, he could not. He could no longer be caged. He wanted to be free, run wild, and howl into the night. In the darkness of the night, he crawled on the floor and found a window to howl to his heart’s content. He was greeted by the wildcat’s hiss; the room was her territory, and Jacob was drawing attention to the room. She took him to the terrace, where his howl would not be audible to the faculty. Cecile, the wildcat, had been living at the facility from a young age. She was neither a patient nor a member of the staff. The asylum was a safe place that she feared leaving. Cecile understood Jacob. She sympathized with him and loved him for who he was. When the local thugs threw a dead animal inside the asylum, Jacob and Cecile gave it a funeral. They had heard stories about how a patient had escaped the center, but the local thugs beat him to a pulp, and he eventually died of starvation. The world outside was terrifying, and the dead animal was their warning to remember the threat that existed outside.
After spending a few days at the facility, Jacob realized that he could not refuse to be the animal he thought he was. He agreed with Annalisa, a patient, who believed that they were not suffering from an illness but instead were a creation of God. When he got the opportunity to howl after a long time, he felt at peace. It was haunting to watch the patients forced to perform activities to feel closer to their human forms. They laughed like humans, yet their sad eyes attested to their misery. While Cecile warned Jacob of the dangers in the world outside, he was desperate to be free. From childhood, he had instincts that made him feel that everything he was learning as a human child was wrong. One day, when he accompanied his parents to a nature park, he heard a howl, and he ran towards the sound. At that moment, he felt at ease, a lightness he had never experienced before. Running in the wild came naturally to him, and only when he looked into his father’s eyes did he realize that he was his son. He remembered how ecstatic the run made him feel. He did not care about his body, for he was no longer a human.
Cecile and Jacob were drawn toward each other. They wanted to make love in their animalistic forms, but Cecile could not proceed. She wanted to replicate her partner, yet she knew that it was just a performance for her.
‘Wolf’ Ending Explained: Did Jacob Run Away From The Asylum? Why Did Cecile Stay Behind?
Jacob snapped for the first time when he watched their senior tackle a young boy who thought of himself as a duck. He could not suppress his anger, and he pounced on the senior, growling at him intensely. Due to his aggression, he received a warning from the facility. They made it clear that they would use painful methods if he failed to conduct himself well. Cecile struggled to watch another batch of patients leave the facility with their parents after they were treated. She meowed and scratched the cushion, as Dr. Angeli reminded her that she did not have a place to go back to. It can be concluded that Cecile’s family was dysfunctional, and they were not ready to take her back. Dr. Angeli had taken the role of her mother and cared for Cecile as her own.
Dr. Mann dragged Jacob to see a caged wolf who was far from the majestic beast that he imagined. But Jacob was not disgusted; he was naturally drawn toward the animal. He could relate all the more to the creature and howled to express his emotions. The wolf howled back, and Dr. Mann realized that he had failed to make Jacob fear his instincts. He wanted Jacob to feel superior as a human being since a wolf could be easily caged by a man, but Jacob loathed humans all the more now. After witnessing the caged wolf, Jacob’s desire to be free becomes stronger than before. Dr. Mann held Jacob captive in a cage to make him realize how weak it was to be a wolf. Cecile visited him at night, disclosing how she was held captive in the same room when she was a child. She was punished for scratching her stepfather with her paws. She hated him for always overpowering her. Her days as a child were spent counting the drops that fell to the ground from the ceiling crack. She would find solace in her imagination, where she was a cat, running away faster than humans, wildly and freely. Jacob kissed Cecile, realizing how their dreams were similar.
Dr. Mann allowed Jacob to stay in his room the next day after he had shown him how tragic it could be if he reached a point of no return. Jacob struggled to go to sleep that night. He tried to control himself, but he failed. He crawled and licked water off the floor when the doctor found him. He insulted Jacob for his deteriorating condition, and Jacob lost control of his temper. He attacked the doctor and was gagged and caged again. Cecile drew whiskers on her face and met Jacob that night. They shared a moment of intimacy, after which Jacob expressed his desire to escape. They were found by Dr. Angeli, who took Cecile back to her room and explained how she could never have a future with him. Cecile was made to fear the outside world from childhood. She was convinced that she lacked the skills required to survive out there. The next morning, Dr. Mann exposed him to electric shocks that made him scream in pain. The patients outside protested and refused to cooperate, knowing that their friend was being tortured, but Dr. Mann reminded them of how incapable they were and controlled the room.
That night, Cecile stole the keys to the cage and injured Dr. Angeli when she caught her in the act. She freed Jacob from the cage and the chains, and they ran to the barbed wire. Jacob was about to climb out when Cecile stopped him. She reminded him how they might die due to starvation, how they needed money to survive, and how girls like her were treated, but Jacob did not fear the unknown. Cecile was repeating what she had been told for years and what she had started to accept. She believed that if Jacob pretended to be a human, then they would be allowed to leave, but Jacob was not ready to be tamed; he wanted to survive as his true self. In the end, she confessed that she was not the wildcat she pretended to be, but she loved him nonetheless. Perhaps Cecile was treated, and she felt closer to her human form, and even though she could have survived outside, she failed to overcome her fears. Quite similar to a domesticated animal who would naturally fear the threats of the outside world. As Jacob climbed his way out, Cecile could not gather the courage to leave.
“Wolf” is not clear about its motive. Is it a broader discussion about trans bodies and body dysmorphia, or is it solely focused on species’ dysmorphia? While it gets the sentiments right, its objective becomes blurry. Though the film is visually poetic and intriguing, the subject can get too wild to handle for some.
“Wolf” is a 2022 Drama Thriller Film directed by Nathalie Biancheri.