Dear Time of the Wolf,
Sometimes the past can color our view of the present. At other times, revisiting once hallowed places from our past can shatter the memories and affections we once held due to the revelations that come with a more refined palette and mature sensibility.
So it was with a great sense of trepidation that I decided to re-approach you after all of these years. After all, the first time I saw you was five years ago, when I was a young, inexperienced cinephile. I was easily impressed, ravenous for more refined cinema, and was already deeply invested in Michael Haneke, your director’s, retrospective. I loved you then; thought you were one of the most honest and forthright pieces of film-making I had ever seen, and couldn’t wait to see you again. The picture of a world after civilization that you created was enigmatic, simple, and harrowing all at once.
So why did I wait so long to see you once more? A mix of your elusiveness in terms of simple availability, and my own anxiety about seeing you again. I recalled your volatile attitude, your cold, clinical approach to the human nature. I was concerned that I would either experience your subtle fury once more with either renewed and compounded devastation, or that you would seem less now than you did then.
It pleases me to say that all of the artistic aspects that I loved in you the first time around remain intact. The simple, static, unyielding gaze of your camera allows for nothing approaching a reprieve from the simple, human horrors on display. The stark, naturalistic colors and tones you use to paint your tableau are just as oppressive and beautiful now as they were then.
In fact, your use of fire and darkness struck me as even more pronounced and meaningful this time. The world you conjure, a rural countryside flooded with refugees following an unseen cataclysm, is made all the more frightening by the impenetrable depth of the darkness that overtakes it at night. Fire seems to make so little impact that even those wielding the flames are only just illuminated.
The performances of your principles and extended cast are likewise excellent. From the moment we are introduced to the family who we will follow, we get a sense of them as a unit under strain. The mother’s stress, the father’s waning grasp on normative behavior and the growing unease of the children as they realize the confusion and powerlessness of their parents is all palpable. The slow, piercing desperation of the makeshift community they fall in with later in the movie is also projected powerfully by the rest of your cast.
If there is any aspect of you in which the differences between our past and present is readily apparent, it is only in the beats of your story. Some of the dread that came from uncertainty during our initial time together was gone because the outcomes of each event were already known to me. This caused you to drag ever so slightly as my anticipation of your coming moments weighed upon me. But perhaps that in and of itself is a kind of compliment. My eagerness to experience our personal highs made the comparable low points almost unbearable.
Still, that is a kind of unevenness, but only insofar as a second viewing is concerned. For the first-time viewer, I am sure you will have the same sustained and almost unbearable sense of pacing that I recall.
So where does that leave us now, Time of the Wolf? I would say we only lost the magic of new love, but retained the deeper, more meaningful burn of sustained adoration. I know this for sure, because I am already looking forward to seeing you once more, this time hopefully sooner rather than later.
With enduring affection,
Brian J. Roan