Clumsily, three wolf pups scurry around a railroad track. They lick the rails. It’s a cute face, but the voiceover of the nature movie Wolf (voiced by Matthijs van Nieuwkerk) roughly makes short shrift of naive thoughts about wolves. “The taste of iron is like fresh blood.” ah.
The wolf is back in the Netherlands, not to everyone’s satisfaction. The animal eats about 3 kilos of meat per day, which causes great damage to sheep farmers, among others. Filmmaker Cees van Kempen thought the wolf’s bad image was unjustified and decided to put the animal in a better light. Wolf is the result of his extremely patient quest in German and Dutch forests, where he quietly waited for his protagonist for many months on end. Of course he didn’t just show up, because wolves have a good nose.
The fact that Van Kempen has managed to collect sufficient visual material is therefore an achievement in itself. Van Kempen managed to film all phases of the wolf’s life, including the migration to another habitat and starting a new pack. The images are beautiful. Of course the story is fabricated: the film supposedly follows one wolf (called Scout) who settles in the Netherlands, while in reality several wolves were filmed in various areas. It is a construction that is often used in nature films.
The wolf fits into the Dutch ecosystem, argues Van Kempen. He mainly hunts for vulnerable animals, leaving meat remains for carrion animals such as ravens, which also benefit from his arrival. It is a convincing story, although it is difficult that the film seems to obscure the wolf’s hunting instincts. It is rarely seen with prey in its mouth, and then from a distance so it doesn’t get too bloody. Perhaps the images were simply not available, but it is more likely that they did not fit into Van Kempen’s PR mission: to create more understanding for the wolf.
Even without gnawed deer, it is of course the question whether Wolf convince the opponents. In any case, the film makes it clear that the animal will not just go away: there are now about twenty wolves in the Netherlands. Wolf gives a beautiful and rare insight into their existence.
Directed by Cees van Kempen
90 minutes, in 130 halls.