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Claude de Givray,
Christian de Tillière,
1798. In a forest, some countrymen catch a wild child who can not walk, speak, read nor write. Doctor Itard is interested by the child, and starts to educate him. Everybody thinks he will fail, but with a lot of love and patience, he manages to obtain results and the child continues with normal development. This is based on true story. Written by
Truffaut remained true to Dr. Itard's written accounts in most respects. A few variations are: (1) Victor was not stark naked when first captured; he had the shreds of a shirt around his neck. (2) Victor's hair would have been much longer, because he was indifferent to hygiene or how he looked. (3) Jean Itard was merely a young medical student, while the film suggests that he was on an equal basis with Pinel. (4) Madame Guerin became almost a mother to Victor, always attending to him, whereas the film suggests that she merely helped to train him and to clean up after him. (5) Itard would rub Victor's back to relax and comfort him, but then had to worry about sexual responses. Victor also often wet his bed, but Itard never punished him; he decided to allow Victor to learn whether he preferred to lie in a wet bed or to get up to relieve himself. These problems are not shown. (6) In the scene in which Victor throws a tantrum about learning the alphabet, his and Dr. Itard's responses were different than are shown in the film. Real-life Victor bit his bedsheets and began to throw hot coals around the house before falling to the ground and writhing/screaming/kicking; and Itard (Truffaut) did not merely put him into the closet for a few moments. Itard admits [in translation] that he actually "violently threw open the window of his room, which was on the fifth floor overlooking some boulders directly below ... and grabbing him forcibly by the hips, I held him out of the window, his head facing directly down toward the bottom of the chasm. After some seconds, I drew him in again. He was pale, covered with a cold sweat ... I made him gather up all the [alphabet] cards and replace them all. This was done very slowly ... but at least without impatience." Viewers may thank Truffaut for choosing the lesser of two evil punishments! (7) Finally, Dr. Itard took care of Victor for 5 years; in 1806, Victor moved into Madame Guerin's house and stayed there for the rest of his life, with the French Government paying for his care. It is believed that he died there, without ever marrying. See more »
In the US subtitles, the opening says that this is a true story that happened in 1978. It should have read 1798. See more »
Le Dr Jean Itard:
Canton of St. Sernin. A boy, 11 or 12 years old, naked and apparently deaf and dumb while searching for acorns and roots to eat was caught in the Caune woods by three hunters as he was about to climb a tree to escape from them. Taken to a nearby hamlet...
[he stops reading and cuts the article from the paper]
Le Dr Jean Itard:
I could examine him and establish the degree of intelligence and the nature of ideas in an adolescent deprived since childhood of all education because he had lived apart from his species.
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Everything about this movie is great. The acting is done perfectly, particularly Victor. This child has the ability to evoke every primal human emotion without doing anything but making sounds and using facial expressions. Perhaps only a child could be capable of doing this but I doubt any child could do it as well. We feel sympathy for him and want to care for him ourselves at the same time that we are anxious about the deep mystery he forces us to recognize. The scene when he is rocking under the full moon, and the look on his face as the movie ends, are brilliant and frightening. The fact that this actor, to my knowledge, has done nothing since, adds to the effect. Where did he go? Might he have been more in touch with this side of humanity than just as an actor? Just incredible. And Truffault's direction was perfect as well. Filmed in a minimalist style and cleverly utilizing early film techniques, he evokes a time period yet allows no distraction from the actual issues involved in the story. The viewer is forced to pay attention and forced to deal with the issues confronting the doctor and his relationship with the boy. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
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