Wolfkin (Kommunioun) had its world première at FrightFest 2022
On the grass by a river, Elaine (Louise Manteau) and Patrick (Benjamin Ramon) are making the beast with two backs, in a communion of flesh and fluids. Their passion spent, Patrick rests his head on Elaine’s naked belly, sniffs at it, and asks, “Why didn’t you tell me?”, before walking off naked into the woods and out of her life. A decade later, Elaine is struggling to make a living in Brussels and to bring up her son Martin (Victor Dieu) all by herself. When Martin starts acting out, scratching and biting his fellow pupils, Elaine decides to track down the boy’s absent father – so she goes on a trip with Martin to the luxurious woodland estate of Patrick’s parents Adrienne (Marja-Leena Junker) and Joseph Urwald (Marco Lorenzini), brother Jean (Jules Werner) and maid Carla (Myriam Muller). Although Jean’s girlfriend Tatiana (Yulia Chernyshkova) is pregnant, Adrienne and Jospeh are overjoyed to discover that they are already grandparents, and do not hesitate to welcome Elaine and Martin to the fold, even as they devote themselves to taming Martin’s more aggressive impulses with a special diet, a medical regime and some very harsh discipline.
The original Luxembourgish title of this feature from director/co-writer Jacques Molitor (Mammejong, 2015) is Komminioun, or ‘communion’ – a reference to the Eucharistic service to which the Urwalds wish to introduce Martin, to mark both his rites of passage and flesh-and-blood initiation into the family. Though only ten, Martin is, as the Urwalds’ family doctor Wilmes (Charles Muller) puts it, ‘premature’ in his transformation from boy to man, and already exhibiting the hostility and hair growth that typify male adolescence. The film’s less oblique English title Wolfkin rather gives the game away as to what is really going on here, as the Urwalds’ civilised lifestyle of Church and hunting, waltzes and dinner parties, conceals their wilder nature and the merely partial humanity of their noble bloodline. Joseph and Adrienne want to restrain Martin’s emerging animality, while Jean sees Martin and Elaine as unwelcome intruders on his ‘territory’ and pretenders to his status as last in the Urwald line.
Wolfkin is certainly a coming-of-age tale as well as an examination of the mother-son bond in extremis, but it is also, in the end, a creature feature, focused on one of the more traditional monsters from the horror pantheon. Yet here, monstrosity has long been embraced and accommodated by the wider community – and so it is used to allegorise the iniquities of Luxembourg’s class system. Elaine enters the Urwald estate as a proletarian single mother, and while mostly welcomed, is quick to learn that she must ‘respect’ the family ‘traditions’, which are heavily gendered and strictly patriarchal, and which steadily strip away her agency and autonomy and reduce her, as they have Carla, to the status of family maidservant. Meanwhile the family is happy to exploit refugees and other outsiders to keep meat on the table. Like her son, Elaine will eventually rebel, biting, as it were, the hand that feeds, and ultimately opting, as Patrick did, for a simpler, happier life on society’s edge, at the margins between culture and nature, on the grass by a river…
strap: Jacques Molitor’s creature feature tracks the iniquities in Luxembourg’s hierarchies of class and gender
© Anton Bitel