The Wild Child

The Wild Child (1970) movie poster

(1970) dir. François Truffaut
viewed: 03/10/09 at Opera Plaza Cinemas, SF, CA

I’d queued up a number of Truffaut’s films, with all the intentions of watching them, but I rarely find myself getting the job done.  When a new print of his 1970 film, The Wild Child, came to local theaters, I thought it an apt time to finally get around to seeing it.

The film is based on the account of “the wild boy of Aveyron“, about a feral child who was found in the woods at the time.  12 or so years old, he had lived on his own in isolation for many years, could not speak, was thought perhaps deaf, but was taken in by a doctor and his housekeeper who attempted to “civilize” him.  Truffaut plays Dr. Jean Itard, the humanistic scientist, whose kindness and rigor allows the boy to be “tamed”.

Shot in black and white, the film has a simple economy and an earnest restraint, portraying the dignity and kindness that can be part of society.  The film is also about the nature of the human beast, given the wildness and survivalism of the child, Victor (as they come to call him), but also the simple beauty of his love of drinking fresh water, climbing the trees, playing wildly in the rain.

There is also the aspect of the potential cruelty of society, one that locks up the misunderstood with the insane or mentally challenged.  Even at the school for the deaf, where the children act and sound nearly as wild as Victor, he is beaten and teased.  He is exploited by the media, a freakshow character.

There’s a lot going on in the film, probably more than I feel like going into here.  I don’t have any particular criticism of the film, but I just wasn’t particularly into it either.   I did find the fade-outs interesting, these slow, obvious blacking out of the image in a closing circular aperature, usually focussing on Victor’s face, a highlight of his emotion, his expression, his point of knowledge or understanding.

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