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Pierre Lachenay is a well-known publisher and lecturer, married with Franca and father of Sabine, around 10. He meets an air hostess, Nicole. They start a love affair, which Pierre is hiding, but he cannot stand staying away from her.
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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
The incidents based on true life, as reported by Dr. Itard and as shown by Truffaut, include the facts that: (1) Victor was captured by hunters. (2) Pinel did conclude and dismiss Victor as a helpless retarded child, "an incurable idiot." (3) Crowds of Parisians really did come to see the "Wild Boy of Aveyron." (4) Victor really did prefer the "O" sound, and accepted the name Victor, which in French has an accent on the "O" [veek-TOR]. (5) Dr. Itard appears to have been truly kind to the boy, as were Mme. Guerin and the neighbors. (6) Victor appears to have had great affection for Itard and Guerin, but was never interested in children of his own age. See more »
The hand the doctor holds the glass of water with changes between shots. 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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Three hunters discover and a naked child, living in a forest. Capturing him, he is taken to an institute for deaf and mute children. From there he is used as little more than an exhibit.
Having read of his story, Jean Itard, a Parisian doctor, played by Truffaut himself, makes it his goal to integrate this `wild child' into society. What follows is an astonishing tale of a boy, completely deprived of all human contact, as he adapt to life in an unfamiliar, structured society. Named simply `Victor' by Dr Itard, we watch as kindly doctor attempts to educate and communicate with this unusual child. We see Victor's first smiles; we hear his first intelligible sounds, and witness, for the first time, his tears.
This is a deeply powerful film, directed brilliantly by Truffaut, and far surpassing his earlier, and much more critically acclaimed `400 Blows'. Jean-Pierre Cargol plays Victor with a remarkable passion, and is absolutely convincing as this child of the forest. His mannerisms, his posture, his very presence would have one believing he genuinely was a `wild child'.
Truffaut follows this story with startling accuracy based on the real life journals of Dr Itard, his adaptation is faithful to the last. His portrayal of the Doctor is filled with compassion, and a tenderness rarely seen in films.
This is genuine pleasure to watch, and is a testament to enduring spirit of mankind. The main criticism I have is the abrupt ending. We are left with so many unanswered questions. In truth, the real `Victor' died approximately 28 years after his first encounter with Itard. I know little of what happened during the time span between the end of the film and his death, but I intend to find out. This film is only a glance at a boy being introduced to a strange, frightening and unfamiliar world.
It is not without its moments of humour. The scene where Victor practically throws the doctor tending to Itard from the house is both funny and charming, while remaining delicately underplayed.
Everything about this film works so well, from the minimalist photography to the classical score. The casting could not have been better. Truffaut presents himself as not only an accomplished director, but also as an inspired actor. Jean-Pierre Cargol is utterly believable, and thoroughly likeable as Victor, and mention must go to Françoise Seigner, as Madame Geurin, Itard's housekeeper, and the child's carer.
This is a very special film, which deserves a great deal of respect. The visual transfer to DVD is accurate and crisp, and the mono soundtrack subtle, clear and effective. This is one DVD which would have greatly benefited from some extras. Perhaps some insight into Victors' life from adolescence to his death, and some information on what became of Itard. Lack of extras notwithstanding, this should still be very high on anyone's shopping list, and is highly recommended. I believe this was Truffauts' crowning achievement, and is a truly beautiful and inspiring film.
Reviewed by Ollie
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