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Thursday, July 02, 2009

L'Enfant Sauvage

There is a special kind of beauty in many French movies: the story is told with simplicity, and as it unfolds, you feel that it is not just life on the screen, it's something more. It is life observed with a great heart.

L'Enfant Sauvage, made by Truffaut in 1970, is such a beautiful movie. It tells us a real story: a boy of about twelve who had lived completely in the wilderness was discovered by some hunters in 1797. The boy was nothing more than an animal. A young doctor (Jean Marc Itard, who would develop during his life a remarkable medical career) took the boy on his charge and started an extremely difficult process of education. It was a painful process, with ups and downs: little by little the boy started to understand the meaning of some basic words, and to realize the empathy of others toward him.

Two persons were permanently with the boy: the doctor himself, and a nurse.The doctor kept a diary where he noted his daily observations.

The movie keeps strictly to the diary, so the story is told with the sobriety of a scientific report. The doctor is played by Truffaut himself: a great mix of sobriety and affection for the boy! His sense of responsibility puts always a restraint on his natural affection for the boy, while his generosity, his ardent desire to do the good, his firm belief in the human dignity keep the balance. A fragment from a concert by Vivaldi comes from the background sometimes, bringing a warm touch to the sobriety of the black and white: like the balance in doctor's mind!

And where the doctor is too dry, too focused on his responsibility, the nurse is the one who behaves like a mother, and succeeds in creating in the boy human feelings!

Is it the movie of Doctor Itard? Or of the nurse, Mme. Guerin (played with great simplicity by Fran├žoise Seigner)? Or of the boy? Jean-Pierre Cargol is saying so much about what human dignity really means, and only by the expression of his eyes!

In the end of the movie, the boy has already developed sufficient human personality to rebel and escape: he will come back as he feels now the need for a family, and here is perhaps the most touching scene of the film: I tried to describe it here, then I gave up, just watch the video!

This is the story of Victor, the ferral child of Aveyron; actually it ended sadly. What the movie does not say is that the boy was never able to progress beyond the level of some basic words and remained all his life a dependent person.



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