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This is a period movie that takes place in the 1860s in Halifax, Nova
Scotia. It concerns an unrequited love between Adele H., the daughter of
Victor Hugo, and a member of the English military stationed there. It is
directed by Francois Truffaut. At the film's beginning, there is some
narration about the involvement of the French and British in the American
Civil War, but the Civil War plays no part in the movie.
I enjoyed the feel of this film. French actress Isabelle Adjani superbly plays a woman whose love is rejected and who inches down a slippery slope to madness. The costumes and scenery ring true, and the movie conveys the feel of the Canadian Atlantic province. It was also interesting to learn this sidelight about Victor Hugo.
Most of all, I enjoyed this film because it raises the question of whether its main character is crazy to begin with or whether, being possessed of such a strong love, it was a natural progression to madness when it was rejected. It raises, but of course does not answer, what causes such a potent love to arise and what is the consequence of its extinguishment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Story of Adele H." is true. François Truffaut, probably afraid of
what would be a reaction of disbelief from the audience, insists about
it right before the movie starts. Later, to those who wouldn't know,
the name for which the H stood for is revealed, Adele H. is the
daughter of the great poet and writer, Victor Hugo. And considering the
author's prestige in France, any attempt of fictionalization for pure
cinematic purposes, wouldn't have served the film. In other words, to
tell such a harrowing story, it 'd better be true.
And 'harrowing' is an understatement, the film features the daughter of the iconic author in the town of Hallifax, Canada, looking for the Lieutenant Pinson. Pinson declared his love to her during a mission in Guernesey, the town that welcomed Hugo in exile during the reign of Napoleon III. But what Adele ignored is that the handsome Pinson, was a seducer and she was the love of his life as long as he lived in Guernesey. But you can't conquer the heart of the most romantic French author's daughter without consequences. The story of Adele H. Is the disturbing, but true, chronicles of these consequences : disguised as stalking, simply one of the most romantically driven descents into madness that ever graced the screen.
Still, for a period film that could have inspired a more epic direction, the atmosphere strikes by its simplicity. All in dark, brown or gray, no music or pieces of action, and everything contributes to quite an austere mood. If I wanted to be more critical, I would have compared the film to some TV movies that try to overcome their limited budgets, I could even mention some savorless acting based on a monotonic tone or one-dimensional characterization, but I guess, this doesn't really matter, and for two essential reasons. First, the movie is short enough to let the script go straightforward to its point, while it could have lasted two hours and half, if it dared to imitate the work of Bergman to probably fail. On that level, the film is short, but efficient. The second, and not the least one, is the extraordinary performance of the precociously talented, Isabelle Adjani, proving again, that she's the most gifted and talented actress of her generation, and maybe more.
The movie's quality and merit rely in their entirety on Adjani's hypnotic performance, rightfully nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Adjani, as Adele H, perfectly conveys the alienation of a mind affected by such a desperate love that it undermines any rational consideration of her actions' incidences. She gave her heart, and the hell she will take it back. An impartial script intelligently handles the treatment of her personality during the first part, allowing us to adopt a very critical attitude toward Adele. She's a stalker; she's a mythomaniac and displays a very despicable selfish attitude when it comes to the name her actions inevitably tarnish. But while the script is impartial, the direction cleverly creates this intimacy between Adele and the viewer, so there's no need to care for the peripheral characters and so we can sympathize or at least understand the reasons of this torment and the apparently malicious motives it inspires, it's a remarkable merit on the field of intelligence.
"The Story of Adele H." is an engaging character study of envy and jealousy, which hesitates between two diagnoses: is it a pathological or a romantic case, or both? I think the answer relies on the presence of the third most important character, present through his undeniable aura, Victor Hugo. Hugo was one the most influential romantic French authors, and I think the common mistake is to associate romanticism with sentimentalism, while they are two philosophically separate things. Romantic describes this incapacity to be understood, this burning passion devouring the heart and while the others can only see what belongs to the real, the romantic poet sees through the future, like a guiding light, or feels it like a sixth sense. As opposite to realism, romanticism evokes the figure of the eternal adolescent with a poignant virginity that deprives him from the pervert effect of cynicism and dishonesty, and that strength and vigor governing his idealistic actions. Adele is overly romantic to the state of alienation, and in a way she's more a victim of Pinson than the opposite, and witnessing Pinson's cold reactions, we end up rooting for Adele on the longer term, and this is not the film's merit, this is its triumph.
Adele inherited her father's ideals, both haunted by the memory of Leopoldine, Adele's sister, who died from a drowning accident at the tragic age of nineteen right after her marriage. This episode is essential because it consolidated Adele's view on love, passion, duty, devotion and sacrifice like when Leopoldine's husband not tolerating to lose the love of his life, let himself drown to death with her: this was the meaning of love for Adele, for her father, who'd be forever devastated by this tragedy, so great, so dramatic, that even Pinson is too small to be ever associated with these passionate persons. And it's not surprising that Adele's mental state finally exceeded the limits of her stressful quest before she finally came back to France, to quietly die at 85, a silent and unnoticed death under the thundering canons of WWI.
And speaking of war, as I said in other reviews, maybe if the greatest war movies were about wars that were lost, maybe this applies to love stories too? Or can we really lose a love? Adele H. embodies the strong determination of a woman, capable to cross the sea in the name of love, and such a powerful and pure heart is just too mighty for Pinson or for anyone. And it's still better to lose the love of your life than your capability to love ...
Don't read ANY comments if you haven't seen it yet.
OH God, François Truffaut summarized so perfectly the stages of ... well, "non corresponded love". It's obsessive, but above all is the love of a lost, fragile woman.
Rejection told step by step in its consequences, brilliantly.
And then there's Isabelle Adjani. WOW. WHAT A PERFORMANCE! She REALLY incorporates a psychologically instable Adele and deserved the recognition she got (NYFCCA, NBR, NSFCA and was robbed of a much deserving Oscar, but who can beat the "hurricane" One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest?)
See IT and feel IT. Remember that it is based on a true story: you won't forget Adele H., her complexity and her nobility soon.
This is a true story about Adèle Hugo, the younger daughter of the famous 19th century French author Victor Hugo (1802-1885, best known today as the author of LES MISERABLES, which is causing an even greater stir now that the musical show has been filmed and nominated for several Oscars). She was named after her mother, who was also called Adèle. This is a passionate and intensely tragic tale which is well known to all cultured French people over the age of forty, who were educated in the days before the French education system collapsed into a pile of wreckage even more shattered than the rubble of the British and American education systems. (No French young person today who has not made extra effort even knows the names of the famous French authors and poets of the 20th century, much less their works, apart from the noxious and revolting Sartre, whose poisonous influence lives on like an ineradicable invasion of Japanese knotweed, choking all the good plants around it to death.) In this film, the 20 year-old Isabelle Adjani gives the performance of her life, a harrowing, wholly compelling and convincing study of a disturbed girl who goes from obsessive love into detachment from reality and thence into total madness. The real Adèle was by no means beautiful, as the photos of her exhibited recently at the Victor Hugo House in the Marais in Paris make clear. Adjani, on the other hand, is ravishing, and how the vain and narcissistic Lieutenant Pinson whom she adores can resist her is the only weakness to the film. The causes of Adèle's madness will never be entirely comprehended, as it was all too long ago (in the 1860s), but Francois Truffaut, who directed this miniature masterwork, hints at her being obsessively haunted by the death from drowning of her beautiful older sister Leopoldine at the age of 19. We see scenes of Adjani writhing in agony in her bed, in the grip of nightmares, calling out that they must not continue to keep Leopoldine's clothes preserved in her trunk at home. Is Adèle afraid of drowning? Is she touched by the terror of death? Does she feel suffocated by the fame of her father? Did she pick up from her father, as if by contagion, his own obsessive grief at Leopoldine's death? Or was she just born to madness? We shall doubtless never know. But having been seduced by the French Lieutenant (and this presumably also inspired THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN by John Fowles) and having given herself to him, 'by giving my body I give also my soul, and it is forever'. The guilt and, according to her faith, the sin, of allowing herself to be defiled in the flesh seems to have contributed to the resultant mania. Adèle then becomes manically fixated upon Lieutenant Pinson and follows him across the Atlantic to Halifax in Nova Scotia here his 16th Hussars have been stationed, and later still to the Island of Barbados in the Caribbean to which the Hussars were transferred. She thus became a primordial stalker, whose masochistic tendencies extended as far as paying a prostitute to go to Pinson, with a note to him saying it is with her compliments 'because you deserve all women'. As a study in female psychology gone wrong, they don't come more intense than this. Can one really blame the heartless Pinson for finding his cast-off mistress to be 'trouble' and wanting to escape her? Which came first, the casting-off or the mania? We do not know that either, nor will anyone. The film is made in a claustrophobic manner, with subdued colour, confined sets, and a darkness reminiscent of that found in all of Victor Hugo's own paintings, which lack all sunlight, and are extraordinarily gloomy, just as gloomy, in fact, as his house in Paris, with its dark 'Chinese Room' and even darker inner chambers, culminating in his funereal bedroom at the back. No wonder Victor Hugo's last words on his deathbed were: 'I see a black light!' This film is a searing emotional experience, largely because of Adjani's incredible performance, where one forgets entirely that she is Adjani and believes one is in the presence of the demented Adèle herself, robed in all her despair and bespangled with the glittering hopelessness of a mind which is disintegrating like an atom in a cyclotron, all before our horrified eyes. Truffaut made a quiet masterpiece, one which has all the qualities of Edvard Munch's silent 'Scream'. By way of epilogue I might say that there is an Adèle Hugo alive today, and she even has a charming sister named Leopoldine, who did not drown at the age of 19 but is still very much alive. They are great-grandchildren of Victor Hugo, two of the seven children (two sons and five daughters) of the famous French 20th century artist Jean Hugo by his second wife (he had no children by his first wife, also a famous French artist, Valentine Hugo, whose maiden name was Gross). And so the names live on and the family lives on, trailing their traditions and their creative works behind them in their collective wake like a convoy of ships which drops buoys to mark its route across the troublous seas of creativity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Did anyone else think Pinson intended to kill Adele on that Barbados
back street, until he realized that he had finally driven her insane?
Bruce Robinson plays the wormy cad to a T, but amazing kudos go to Adjani, as the deeply suffering heart of what Truffaut dubbed his "love story for one."
I realize that Adele was an obsessive, masochistic, lying stalker. But she also suffered from the vicarious trauma of her sister's drowning in addition to probably having a tendency toward mental illness. What a case study in the truism that money can't buy you love!
Let's not trivialize this great film by reducing it to a "fatal attraction" for the 19th century. What woman hasn't found herself in the position of having given herself to a man only to be callously cast aside?
Truffaut beautifully captures the ineffable helplessness of being in this excruciating position.
I first saw this film back in 1975 as an undergraduate at Penn State, while majoring in English. I remember telling a poet friend, "I wish I wrote as much as Adele did!" I'd like to believe I have aged as admirably as this powerful work.
Francois Truffaut's historical tale about Victor Hugo's daughter Adele
and her obsessive quest for the English soldier she loved is
bittersweet and heartfelt at the same time. It takes the true talent
and caliber of a director like Truffaut to make a character such as
Adele Hugo into a person that ends up being more sympathetic than
deplorable. Still, Truffaut does not shy away from the elements that
make up her descent into madness and deep sorrow, showing the ways in
which she will go to extreme lengths to get what she wants. There is a
burning desire in this woman that is both disturbing and admirable at
the same time.
Isabelle Adjani won much acclaim for her work as Adele and it was well- deserved. At a mere 19, Adjani showed incredible poise as a young actress, capable of carrying virtually the entire picture mostly with her eyes, which are a deep blue and give her face a hauntingly beautiful quality. There is the constant feeling about Adele that she, being the daughter of the famous French poet Victor Hugo, is simply a spoiled rich girl using her father's money to try and buy a husband. Yet, Truffaut does not see it that way. Rather, he views Adele as a tortured soul who had enough passion and love for both herself and the man of her dreams only to receive indifference and cold incredulity. It is a sad film but at the same time a film of remarkable human courage and persistence. Many would question Adele's motivations for doing the things she does, which seem to be purely selfish, but no one can question the heart and passion with which she does it.
"The Story of Adele H." is an account based on the life of Adele Hugo,
daughter of the great writer Victor Hugo, who led a tormented and
difficult life in Halifax, New Scotia where she tracked down the man of
her life, a military (Bruce Robinson) who after this desperate act of
the woman decided to dump her away. Will she get over this guy? No, and
the film shows us an obsessive woman (stalker if you prefer) that seems
to love this guy with a power and ferocity that she'll do anything to
be close to him.
Putting together the word disappointing along with the name of the talented director François Truffaut is almost a sinful act, and I'll try to go in another direction, but considering the mind behind the movie one can almost say that. Compared to another of his works "The Story of Adele H." seems a minor work in terms of story. Truffaut's idea was amazing, he used some of the diaries of the real Adele and added something more to the story, but almost the whole film keeps on the same path and that is the obsession of a woman for a handsome womanizer as later we find out. There are some boring parts, other less interesting parts, but nothing so compromising.
To female (and a few males I think) viewers Adele's story might be awful or something that makes of a beautiful woman a mere object considering the way she's treated by this guy and all of her attempts to make him fall for her, she throws herself into so many downer and sad levels, almost to insanity that I believe many people won't care about it. Of course you can say that she acts in that way because of the period this story is set (19th century), and nowadays women simply doesn't act that way no more, self-respect among them is beyond trying to reach attention of men. She's even more complicated (but not so dramatically complex) than Catherine of "Jules & Jim", a brilliant work from Mr. Truffaut of whom I absolutely love all of his films.
Isabelle Adjani's performance as Adele is great, she makes the whole film interesting, she has a powerful presence on screen, guarantying a Academy Award nomination of Best Actress (losing the award to Louise Flecther in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"); Bruce Robinson who plays Adele's love is a good actor and as the woman says to her in some moments before he walks away from her: "You're beautiful". She's right about that, he's really all that!
If the plot wasn't too much focused on the obsession and Adele's stalking this guy, I would have enjoyed more. But even a minor film from Truffaut is a giant film among plenty other films. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Truffaut is usually such a high-spirited filmmaker that The Story of Adele H. comes as a great surprise. Isabelle Adjani plays a woman obsessed with a man who has no interest in her. Ultimately she convinces herself that she is in the middle of a great romance and loses touch with reality. By the end of the film she doesn't even recognize her great love anymore, since he exists far more in her mind than he ever has in her experiences. The daughter of Victor Hugo, Adele H. is desperate to create a life apart from her family, and she fixates on her imaginary love affair as her salvation. It's an odd, dark story, and Truffaut takes a determinedly direct approach to it, sacrificing some of the liveliness and cinematic flashiness of his other films but more than making up for it with a sharper focus and intensity. Adjani is brilliant. She makes no effort to win our sympathy or milk us for the pathos inherent in her situation, and the clean, even stark single-mindedness of her acting begins to take on a harsh grandeur as the film goes along. Though far from the most characteristic Truffaut film, this is one of his best.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Story of Adele H. is an interesting study about obsessive love,
which inverts the customary roles by showing the woman as the predator
and the man as the victim. Long before Basic Instinct and Fatal
Attraction, there was Isabelle Adjani playing Adele Hugo, daughter of
the famous writer, Victor Hugo, and completely crazy about Lieutenant
Pinson, a man she's determined to marry or else ruin.
There's not much to say about this movie. The story is quite simple and develops in an inevitable way, as happens when an inflexible personality collides with something she wants but can't have. As far as period dramas go, it's pretty but intimate; it's not the typical, flamboyant recreation of a lost time.
In the end, all there is to talk about is Isabelle Adjani's powerful, unforgettable performance as the crazy Adele. It's a good thing she's in almost every scene of the movie. This is one of those rare instances when an actor manages to carry an entire movie on the shoulders. Adjani displays her insanity and intensity of feeling quite clearly thanks to her expressive eyes. It's well known that good acting is pretty much a matter of expressing emotions with one's eyes, and on that account Adjani is unmatched in this movie. One look at her eyes here and you'll see an inextinguishable fire burning inside her, that will eventually consume her sanity.
I hadn't seen a François Truffaut movie before this one, and I can say I'm quite pleased with his direction in it. It was straightforward, unobtrusive. It gave Adjani room to display her talent. It's amazing to think that she was only 20 when this movie came out. She was just starting her career and yet showed more talent than many veteran actors. I'm a big believer that a good movie needs a good screenplay. But when that's lacking, I hope at least it has a good actor like Isabelle Adjani.
F. Truffautt said that Adele H is about a"face",the beautiful face of Adjani.The indomitable Adele seems to love to much,her passion and intensity proves of how dangerous a "love obsession" could be. Adjani performance sometimes is very disturbing,and she really shines as this dark,genuine,amazing young woman,Adele H is not the most popular of Truffautt movies ,but IMHO is his most solid work,you don't need to be his "fan" to appreciate it.
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