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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
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 »
When getting ready to see the neighbors, the boy's hands are on the same pane of glass in the window, but in the next cut, his hands are on different panes. See more »
Does it really contrast socialization with instinct?
The film is well made with good performances by Victor the wild child as well as Truffaut as his doctor and father figure.
Truffaut's main concern is studying what humans really are when you strip away the socialization process. Do we have morals? Language abilities? Compassion? This was also the main question for Dr. Itard who raised the boy after he was found.
However, the legitimacy of the wild child is called into question early in the film. Is Victor a normal human child or was there something abnormal about him that caused his family to abandon him? If he was abnormal to begin with, then we really can't conclude anything about what humanity would be like without the socialization process.
Reading through Dr. Itard's notes, many have concluded that Victor was an autistic child. His parents probably found him uncontrollable and abandoned him in the woods. So while Dr. Itard believed he was seeing the results of a normal boy with no socialization, he was probably seeing the results of a normal autistic child.
Despite this problem, the film is still interesting to watch but it ends up raising more questions than it answers.
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