Review: WOLF TOTEM

By Renee’ Collins

Rating: 4 (Out of 5 Reels)

During China’s Cultural Revolution, a young urban student, Cheng Zhen (Shaofeng Feng) is sent to live with Mongolian herders, where he adopts a wolf cub (IMDB).

The Chinese government decides to send students from large cities into the countryside to live with the Mongolians for two year assignments.  Their goal is to learn mandarin and the Mongolian culture in the hopes they would pass that knowledge onto others which is a grand notion that many people could benefit from in almost all cultures.  Experiencing other cultures broadens one’s knowledge of the world and hopefully to appreciate their place in the world even more.

Zhen quickly learns how the Mongolian people live harmoniously with their environment because if they don’t respect that balance all would be lost for humans and the animals.  The crux of this story is the attempting to keep the balance of life in the wild which hopefully allows all life to persist.  For example, the wolf packs kill many animals and bury them in the ice to sustain them in the winter months.  The Chinese government officials steal that cash and the wolves are left to extreme measures to survive.

Director Jean-Jacques Annaud other notable works include Enemy at the Gates, Seven Years in Tibet and The Name of the Rose to name a few.  This film is visually stunning, extremely well-acted even down to the wolves.  Wrangling wolves for a movie shoot cannot be an easy thing but it is done well here and adds to the depth of this film.  All in all this film is worth a look but is a bit long and at times a bit preachy.  The storyline is at times gut wrenching which is to be expected due to the storyline.

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