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Normal Topic Enfant Sauvage, L' (1969) (Read 2,820 times)
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Enfant Sauvage, L' (1969)
10. Jan 2002 at 17:29
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A movie I've known about for years but had never seen.  I ordered the DVD from Amazon on a hunch and I'm very glad I did:
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Here is the Imdb listing:
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The wild boy is Jean-Pierre Cargol.  The doctor who takes custody of him is played very expertly by the director, Francois Truffaut.

This is a true story, based on the actual discovery and capture of a feral 11-12 year old boy in a French woodland in 1798 and Truffaut is reported to have adhered faithfully to the actual journals of the Doctor Jean Itard who attempted to civilize and educate the child.

At first the boy is placed in an institution for deaf and dumb children, where he is treated as an exhibit for the curious and where he becomes a victim of the other children's rough teasing.  Dr. Itard obtains permission from the authorities to take the boy into his home for some gentle but firm training in the ways of humanity.  It is very touching to see the boy's innate intelligence try to bend itself to the doctor's formal efforts at education while his eyes keep straying to the windows.  His heart clearly belongs to the wildness of the French woods.

The boy's very fine little body is shown fully for a short time early on during his capture, in scenes that reminded me of the 'jungle boy' parts of the movie, 'Greystoke.'

Cargol's acting, particularly in depiction of feral mannerisms, is phenomenal.  When he is finally cleaned, clipped and freshly clothed,  young Cargol emerges dark-eyed and touchingly beautiful.  (I think I am just destined to fall in love with French boy actors named Jean-Pierre.)

It's easy to compare this film to 'The Miracle Worker' and much of the action in Dr. Itard's home does closely resemble scenes in that movie.  At its heart, Truffaut's movie is about education, as is 'Miracle Worker.'  But the miracles in 'Enfant Sauvage' are slow and subtle and not spectacular.  Our emotions are evoked by simple moments,  the child's slow progress toward real boyhood and the awakening of his need for nurturing.

I became convinced that Truffaut was trying to make a point about the doctor's obsessive focus on education.  Dr. Itard guides the boy with kindness and gentleness with an occasional cursory show of affection.  But he shows no understanding or tolerance of the boy's natural attempt to bring play into his schooling.  When the boy cries,  Itard seems somehow to see it as a point of educational progress.  The doctor has no notion of engaging the boy's heart as well as his mind.  It is his blind spot.

In a scene that almost had me in tears, the boy, sitting up in bed, grasps Itard's hands and places them on his head, on one side of his face, then the other, back to his head, and so on.  The doctor sees this only as an attempt at some kind of speech.  He is clearly no boylover.  How I longed to see just one heartfelt hug.

But Doctor Itard is not a heartless man.  He has his lyrical moments.  From the English subtitles:
"Victor has always shown a marked preference for water and the way he drinks it shows he finds great pleasure in it.  He stands by the window gazing upon the countryside as if in this delectable moment this child of nature sought to reunite the two blessings to survive his loss of freedom - a drink of pure water, the sight of sunlight on the countryside."

There are quite a few haunting and lyrical moments in the movie.  The boy is entrancing.

(Edited by YoungArthur at 7:06 pm on Jan. 10, 2002)
« Last Edit: 29. Jun 2008 at 04:31 by Zabladowski »  
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Re: Enfant Sauvage, L' (1969)
Reply #1 - 08. Apr 2011 at 21:18
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Smiley I saw this movie this evening. The play of Jean-Pierre CARGOL in part of Victor is fabulous. Here the trailer. My movie rating is 8/10.

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