Directed by: #NicholasRooney
Written by: Nicholas Rooney
Starring: #AlexanderDugin, Nicholas Rooney
I think it’s safe to say that Alexander Dugin is not what one would call a “conventional thinker” regardless of personal or political beliefs. Diplomat turned filmmaker Nicholas Rooney centres The Wolf in the Moonlight around a series of interviews he had conducted with Dugin in 2018 across a wide berth of subjects. Dugin, a controversial philosopher with influences in the Russian political and military spheres has had his ideological views compared to fascism with schools of thought on Neo-Eurasianism and Fourth Political Theory. Holding extremely anti-western views, sanctioned by the United States government in response to the Ukraine crisis, even dubbed “Putin’s Brain” by other journalists, Dugin is immediately a fascinating subject to be examined in the documentary form.
Unfortunately, Rooney is not a filmmaker up to the task as The Wolf in the Moonlight squanders this potential in a poorly paced narrative that doesn’t know what to do with itself. The majority of the film is Dugin speaking either in talking heads or in walk and talk scenarios with Rooney, whether the subject is political, theological, artistic, controversial, or incidental Dugin has many things to say. Initially, it's captivating, Dugin comes across like a modern-day Rasputin at times, almost every opinion he has can be considered radical, even ludicrous. The Wolf in the Moonlight isn’t a particular endorsement of Dugin’s beliefs but it's not a challenge to them, it's frustrating to see Rooney steamrolled by Dugin whenever he tries to question him further on topics such as Crimea or the Skripal poisonings. Rooney just lets Dugin spin the film however he wants it and all that initial intrigue the film holds dissipates as you watch the film become another one of Dugin’s soapboxes.
Rooney is no David Frost, he’s not equipped to go toe to toe with his subject, playing it safe at just about every turn. From a filmmaking perspective, his creative decisions give some breathing room between each discussion but don’t offer the deep thematic resonance intended. Paintings, footage of festivals and dancers bookend the interviews, offering visual aid to Dugin’s beliefs, they’re nice little breaks and but clearer cultural contexts would have been appreciated. There are sound mixing issues during segments of the interviews whether it be Dugin sitting next to a burning fireplace or non-diegetic sound effects layered over the dialogue, it can be distracting.
The Wolf in the Moonlight just feels aimless amid all of its subject matter, Rooney casts broad strokes trying to cover everything but doesn’t have a clear focus for his vision. While political analysts and historians might find these reflections of Dugin fascinating, the layman will be turned off by the repetitive filmmaking and slow pacing.