The Wild Child (Truffaut, 1970) DVD
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Directed by Francois Truffaut
Produced in 1970
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Based on a true story of a 'wild child' found in the forests in the late 1700s, this is a humane reflection on society and the civilizing process.
Length: 83 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Cat No: 16882DVD
Format: DVD B&W
Subtitles: French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Portugese, Greek, English HoH, German HoH
- Theatrical Trailer
by Alex Davidson on 29th April 2004
The Wild Child is not one of Truffaut’s better known films, but it ranks as one of his best works. Although it is not without its flaws (Truffaut himself gives a rathe... Read on
The Wild Child is not one of Truffaut’s better known films, but it ranks as one of his best works. Although it is not without its flaws (Truffaut himself gives a rather wooden performance as the child’s tutor), the director’s technique is of a typically high calibre, borrowing devices from silent film and documentary to illustrate his tale.
Based on a true story, the narrative describes the events that follow the discovery of a young child (Jean-Pierre Cargol) living wild in a French forest. He can not communicate, save for a few grunts, and his animalistic behaviour alarms all those who encounter him. Dr. Itard (Truffaut) decides to take the boy (whom he names Victor) under his wing and to teach him to communicate and act in a socially acceptable manner.
The documentary-style of the film adds a degree of realism that makes the audience empathise with young Victor. The use of a handheld camera in the film’s early stages, as Victor is chased by dogs, adds a degree of urgency and intimacy to the boy’s plight. One of the first words he learns to recognize is the word 'lait' ('milk'), betraying a possible yearning for the absent mother; indeed, Itard keeps the child under his supervision for a symbolic nine months, and in many ways he becomes a replacement mother for Victor.
This special bond between the two characters renders one scene in particular very disturbing – Itard tries to see if the backward child can comprehend injustice by punishing him for no reason. It was this scene (based on the true story) that attracted Truffaut to the project in the first place, as he knew the scene would stir up audiences’ sensibilities.
The film also contains much humour, often based upon Victor’s bemusement at the bizarre rituals of civilized humanity. These moments of humour are very effective thanks to the excellent performance of Cargol, who continues the tradition of superb children’s performances coaxed under Truffaut’s direction (Jean-Pierre Léaud’s acting in Les 400 Coups is also excellent). The Wild Child may not be Truffaut’s best film, but it is definitely worth investigating this rarely-discussed picture.