Having had an epiphany by watching ‘L’Argent de Poche’ which opened up world cinema for me, I searched out other films by director Francois Truffaut. The next film I saw was ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’. This 1970 film tells the story of a child who spent the first eleven years or so of his life away from humans. He develops as a ‘wild child’ until discovered and captured. The film, based on a true story, shows the work of the doctor who tries to civilise the young boy.
The film highlights issues of what it means to be human or civilised. Truffaut himself played the part of the doctor who took on the case. The authorities have placed the boy in a hospital for deaf and mute children. When he observes the boy, the doctor comes to think that he is neither deaf but mute but is a human whose behaviour is due to a lack of human contact.
He names the boy ‘Victor’ and removes him from the hospital to a house in Paris. From here, he begins the task of civilising him. For the director, it was important to work closely with the actor playing Victor. This is the reason he took the central role himself; he could better draw out the performance from the boy that he wanted by working within scenes with him.
In the end, it is for the audience to decide whether the life Victor faces is better than the one he would have had if he had stayed in the wild.
‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?