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Wolf Totem [2015] [PG-13] - 2.6.2



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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In 1967, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, two college students (Feng Shaofeng and Shawn Dou) are sent by communist officials to live among the nomads of Inner Mongolia as teachers. The officials plan to kill all the local wolves in order to sell their fur and preserve livestock, but one student saves one wolf pup, with dramatic consequences. Based on the autobiographical novel by Lü Jiamin. Also with Basen Zhabu, Yin Zhusheng, Ankhnyam Ragchaa, Baoyingexige, Tumenbayar, Xilindule and Bao Hailong. Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Dialogue is in Mongolian and Mandarin with English subtitles. [2:02]

SEX/NUDITY 2 - A man and a woman kiss in a field of tall grass as he lies almost on top of her; another man calls across the field and the first man rolls off the woman quickly and they button their coats as the woman hides behind sheep and tall grass. A woman kisses a man on the lips briefly and they hug for several seconds.
 A college student tells a widow, "I love you" and says that her departed husband wants her to marry him; she tells the student that the local communist leader chose a second husband for her and the student becomes sad and angry, shouting tearfully.
 A woman wears a long, heavy sheepskin coat over panties (we see her thighs as a man stares at them and we see a glimpse of her abdomen). A shirtless older man lies face down on a clinic table, receiving a cupping treatment on his back.

VIOLENCE/GORE 6 - During a nighttime snowstorm we see hooves, running paws, flashlight beams and we hear that two horsemen are missing as overhead shots show heavy snow and weak flashlight beams as men shout; a white horse rears up on screen, its chest and front legs covered in blood and then it runs away from the camera while wolves chase horses and riders, herding them all toward a frozen lake, a horse kicks down a wolf that falls on its side, another wolf bites off a part of a horse's neck and mane and we see blood, a human rider places a noose from a long pole around a wolf's neck and drags it until it dies (no blood), three wolves pull down a horse and rider but the horse stands up and takes the rider to safety, and another rider beats wolves with a long pole and shouts, "I'll kill you all!" (he leaves five dead wolves in the snow with some blood on a few of their bodies). A woman calls for help outside a yurt as a wolf pulls a dead lamb out of her hands (no blood); a medium-sized dog appears and bites the wolf deeply in the throat, killing it (we see substantial blood flow) and we hear bones crunch as the wolf's neck breaks. Three jeeps full of men toting rifles chase wolves for long distances, shooting several of them dead; wolves drop dead with some yelping (we see some blood), one wolf jumps off a cliff and dies on the rocks below, another wolf dashes into a den and claws the rocky ceiling until the rocks collapse on him and block the den, men set a meadow on fire and wolf fur catches fire, but squelches as they run into a river (we hear that all wolves die except the pack leader, who runs over 38 km and stops, exhausted).
 A man picks up each of two pups by the tail, swings each in a circle like a baseball windup (we see only a flash of a small amount of fur), flings each pup onto a rock or the ground off screen and we hear thuds; a little boy cries when this happens, but his mother says the pup went to be with God and the boy recovers. A woman kills a wolf pup by flinging it onto the ground after committing its spirit. A college student climbs into a wolf den and digs with a crowbar, making part of the dirt-and-rock ceiling fall; he finds two pups and brings them out, whereupon an older man rides up on horseback, dismounts and places the pups into cloth bags, he swings the bag, throws it off-screen, we hear thuds (the camera pans in to one bag that is seeping blood onto the ground) and the college student picks the bag up and sits tearfully with it in his lap.
 A man rides a horse across a grassy plain in high winds and the horse balks and whinnies as a close-up shows a wolf's face, snarling and revealing large, sharp teeth and bright yellow eyes; several wolves approach the horse and the man grasps his metal stirrups and clanks them together, scaring the wolves, making them run away because they think it is a metal trap. A man hidden behind a rock sets off a trap with a long pole and we see him twice in a bed afterwards, blood speckling his face and dotting the bandage on his hand.
 A pack of wolves stalk a herd of steppe deer (the subtitles call them "gazelles") as a man says, "The desire to kill tortures them. They have patience" (we see close-ups of a wolf face in three shots, slobbering, with saliva falling out of the frame); the wolves run after the deer and we hear that they herd the deer into a frozen lake where approximately 60 frozen deer are seen sticking up out of the ice the next day (we see the open ribcage and red, raw rib-meat of a staring deer in the foreground and we see deer necks and heads with staring eyes, and the legs of the frozen animals sticking out of the ice in the distance); men and women roll carpets over the ice on which to stand and harvest a few dozen of the animals and place them into piles on carts (no blood shows), releasing a couple of deer that are still alive and leaving many carcasses for the wolves; a man explains that this is part of the supernatural Big Life, where they release the live deer so the wolves will have more food later and refrain from attacking the sheep herd. In a night scene, a rider hears a gunshot off-screen and falls off his horse (no blood) as the camera cuts to horse hooves slowly stepping onto the ice of a frozen lake and breaking through it (we hear a couple of horses screeching) and the camera cuts to morning, showing the man lying on his back on the ground, frozen and dead while the camera pans to the lake and pulls back, showing us about 50 horses frozen in the lake (we see long twisted necks with horse heads sticking up from the ice, eyes staring blankly and in close-up we see a stream of ice extending from one horse's mouth to the lake surface and blood frozen in the stream).
 A wolf grabs a sheep by the neck and we see blood and raw meat as the sheep dies; two men on horses give chase and we see a close-up of a wolf snapping and snarling into the camera while a man dismounts and puts lit firecrackers into the den of another wolf that charges out of the smoke cloud and knocks a man aside. A wolf pack climbs the stone walls of a sheep pen at night and kills several sheep, eating some meat that we see among some splotches of blood; we hear snarling and chomping, men shouting, the wolves pile sheep into a corner of the pen, climb up them and jump out quickly to escape as men pull a college student out of his yurt and exclaim that wolves know how to fly; one man beats the college student (no damage is done) and the skirmish is broken up.
 A wolf pup smells a dead wolf and bites a man on the upper arm (we see a large red bite mark and some blood); the man shouts that the animal is a monster and the wolf whines and lies down. We hear that a young boy was bitten by a young wolf and we see the boy in a hospital bunk with some blood on his upper arm; the boy's mother screams at the wolf's owner and says that she will kill the wolf and then kill herself if the boy dies.
 Dead sheep or deer are seen lying on a trap that contains dynamite and explodes when each of two wolves and a man moves the sheep (we see each wolf lying on its side, dotted with blood in a long shot after a fiery and smoke filled, loud explosion); a wolf finds one of the dead wolves, smells it, whines, and rubs its head over the body in sorrow. Swarms of mosquitoes attack all living things for weeks one spring and summer in Mongolia; small dark clouds of the insects buzz and land on animal fur and gather at animal eyes and noses. An eagle pecks at a dead sheep and we see blood and mosquito clouds. We see a wolf jump away as a metal trap snaps loudly.
 A college student walks toward a wolf as men point rifles at him and talks to the wolf telling it to escape between rocks; it listens, then falls on its side, dead, with its eyes staring blankly and the man is tearful. A clan chief places a clansman's frozen dead body, clothed and wrapped in cloth on a rocky incline during the winter in Mongolia as he explains that Mongols eat meat all their lives and donate their own meat (bodies) to nature when they die. A clansman leads a horse cart containing the clan chief's body, wrapped in cloth, along a grassy incline and pushes the body onto the grass. A man dies quietly after telling a college student that the student saved the last Mongolian wolf by raising a pup.
 A government official orders a Mongol clan to kill all of wolf pups every spring in their lands. We hear that Genghis Kahn and another general learned army attack techniques from wolves, herding the enemy over cliffs and into frozen lakes. A government official looks out onto a lake filled with dead horses and exclaims, "This is a disaster!" and he arrests a clansman for allowing the horses to die, because the clan was caring for them for the army (the prisoner has a bloody and scraped face); a college student argues with the official about the wolves, shouting that the communists stole all the wolves' food (deer frozen in the lake) and the carnage is the fault of the communists. A wolf pup tries to howl, but squeaks and a government official finds the pup; a student talks the official into letting him keep the pup to breed with a dog, and the official stakes the pup out on a lead attached to a stake in order to lure the wolves in to kill them (the plan fails). A student shouts at a young wolf to stop trying to escape him, because dogs and eagles will eat it; the pup whines and lies down. A doctor asks for wolf body parts for Chinese medicine in exchange for medicine, but does not receive them. Nomads arrive at what they thought was a pristine steppe and clean lake for summer camp and find communists who have built an industrial village; the local official rides up on a bright red tractor and the clan leader shouts at him; the official explains that the Han Chinese living there are plagued at their old home by toxic plants, rats and sterile soil. A woman tells a man that after a wolf bit his arm, the wound will fester and need amputation and such bites is why two men in her clan are missing an arm (we do not see them); she applies a poultice that helps, but it causes him to grimace and yelp in pain. A man rides 20 hours each way without sleep and fights with a doctor, shaking and pushing the physician in order to bring back penicillin for a boy (please see the Substance Use category for more details).
 A college student with bloody hands finds a wolf pup in a den and brings it to his home, and another student argues with him about it and the clan leader says the student has made a god (the wolf pup) into a slave. A man raises a wolf pup, giving it his meat ration every day and we see the man cutting red meat and bones with a large cleaver several times. A clan chief displays a wolf skin on a flagpole outside his yurt, symbolizing the clan's power animal that travels between Earth and the supernatural world and represents the god Tengger. A man places a wolf pup in an outside den in the ground lined with sheepskin. A man teaches a young wolf to avoid snapping traps baited with a leg of a sheep.
 A clan leader gives two male college students each a long club wrapped in a rope handle for use against attacking wolves. Two men and a woman have a snowball fight and the woman rubs icy snow into the face of one of the men.
 A man scoops up horse dung with a wide wooden scoop and places it into a hamper for use as fuel. A man finds dried wolf pup dung in a den and smells it, then holds it to the nose of a friend who shouts to get away. A college student dumps out a basket of dung and another male student shouts at him; the first student shouts at the other man and places a wolf pup in the basket for its safety.

PROFANITY 2 - 2 scatological terms, 6 mild obscenities, name-calling (crazy, insane, mad, madness, dumb, stupid, idiots, silly, old, monster, brat, primitives, public enemy), 10 religious exclamations (e.g. For God's sake, Tengger [God] Is Calling Him, Tengger Is Calling Me, Tengger Is Telling Us To Leave, Tengger The Newborn Is Yours, May Your Soul Fly to Tengger, Tengger Help Me, This Is Tengger's Will, He Belongs To Tengger). [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - We hear that a man and a boy receive penicillin injections for wolf bites, we see three vials of penicillin in one scene, and a woman places a poultice on a man's shoulder wound and secures it with a bandage. Inner Mongolian men and women drink a locally made alcoholic beverage from non-labeled bottles in a shop and from small bowls around a campfire at night, and a bottle of the liquor sits beside a campfire. An elderly man lights a smokes a long pipe in a yurt as well as outside during the day and at a campfire at night.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Mongol clan system, religions, superstitions, power animals, hunger among the Chinese, death, sustainability, over-farming, the food chain, Chinese Communism, politics, cooperation.

MESSAGE - We have much to learn from people who live in harmony with the environment. The destruction of one species will cause other species, as well as humans, to suffer.

Special Keywords: S2 - V6 - P2 - MPAAPG-13

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