Like a frozen dinner box: the cover cheated me
By circumstances an infant is lost in the wilderness, growing up without any connection to other human beings. One day the half-grown child is found by other people who bring him to civilization and try to incorporate him.
Have you heard the story before? I bet you have. It’s a reoccurring theme in pop culture, and it has always had a grip on me. It opens for many funny or intriguing scenes when nature clashes with civilization, opening your eyes to the “magic” in things that you usually take for granted, such as the bad-ass Hanna’s reaction to electrical light. But more importantly: it puts up some important questions about it means to be human as opposed to an “animal”. What are the differences? Is the “human” way of living always to prefer? Is it the right thing to do to try to “tame” the wildling?
The Wild Child by François Truffaut is based on a story about a twelve year old boy who was found in Sothern France wandering alone in the woods in 1797, where he apparently had lived his entire childhood naked and alone. A young physician decided to take him in custody, teaching him manners as well as speaking and writing.
This sounded like a perfect film for me, and the stylish cover of the edition I had come across brought my interest to yet another level. The eye of a wild creature stared at me intensely as he looked out from what looked like a hide in a bush. I couldn’t wait to get to know his story.
Sadly it turned out that the film had as little to do with the pretty box it was sold in as frozen dinners have. Whatever they’ve put on the cover, it doesn’t represent the content.
I’m not sure if I even want to call it a movie. Mostly it looks like a documentary, as I imagine they were made way back in time, in the 20s or 30s.
Truffaut himself, playing the young doctor, reads aloud from his diaries in a very dry, factual voice. Meanwhile the events he relates are illustrated in picture. There is no conflict, no build-up, no resolution. There is nothing that makes you care very much either for the child or the doctor. So what is it? Stuck somewhere in the middle between a documentary and a feature film, doing neither particularly well, I can’t really see what this film is or why it exists.
You might want to watch it anyway, if you’ve got completionist tendencies and want to see every movie ever made about feral children and noble savages. But otherwise I can’t recommend it.
If you want a suggestion of what to watch instead of this, my first suggestion would be Michel Gondry’s Human Nature with a very creative, original script by Charlie Kaufman. Watch Disney’s The Jungle Book and enjoy the wisdom of “The Bare Necessities”. Or why don’t you try Greystoke, which I remember as a decent attempt to make something a little bit closer to the original Tarzan than previously had been done. Even Hanna does a better work showing the reactions of someone when someone who grew up outside of civilization suddenly is exposed to other people. At least it’s fun and exciting. That is the last thing I’d call The Wild Child.
The Wild Child (L’enfant sauvage, François Truffaut, FR, 1970) My rating: 2,5/5