Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Two Brothers

(Deux freres, France UK, 2004)

It is the mid-1920s and Kumar and Sangha are tiger cubs from the same litter. (I just learned that though tigers usually have two or three cubs, they can have as many as six!) Their father is killed trying to protect them, and one is sold to a small circus while the other goes to a young boy who raises him as a pet until his mum puts her foot down. After that he is caged and abused by a snooty Khmer prince. After a year the brothers are brought together for a death match, but they won’t fight.

I know this is a family film, but it all got too bloody unlikely for me. I don’t really enjoy seeing animals do things they don’t actually do in real life. I don’t care to see them anthropomorphized. Let tigers be tigers, I say. One unlikelihood follows another until the brothers are escaping into the jungle. Guy Pearce, who was a looter of ancient Cambodian temples and a shooter of tigers, reforms and decides they should be protected. The young boy instantly recognizes his pet, which I also don’t believe. I mean, they used thirty trained tigers to film this, simply because it is not really possible to tell one tiger from another without laborious comparison.

Oh, well. The thing I hated most was that, at the end, Pearce explains to the boy that these tigers have never been taught to hunt. Therefore, they will sooner or later go for the easiest prey to catch. That is humans, or even better, human children. They both understand this … and they still let the tigers escape into the jungle. Hell, it’s just Cambodian children the big cats will be eating, right? Who cares? Now it we were letting them loose in London, or Paris, or Sydney, that would be different, of course.

Yeah, I know I’m probably being too harsh, but that really did bother me. They justify it all by showing the brothers re-uniting with their mother, who will presumably teach them to hunt. Sure, right, uh-huh. Of course by now she would have another litter and be much more concerned with them than with these overgrown babies …

So is there anything good about it? Children will probably like it. It was mostly filmed in Cambodia, not a place we see all that often in films. It looks really great. It is made partly to raise awareness of just how critically endangered tigers are, with a footnote at the end pointing out that the number of tigers in 1920 was around 100,000, and now there are only about 5,000 in the wild, maybe less. There are far more in captivity than running free. They are extinct in many countries where they used to thrive. That’s really awful … but we in America and Europe don’t have to deal with man-eaters, do we? Tigers still kill babies in India and other places.