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France, 1970 (MIFF 1971, Programme 8)

Director: François Truffaut

In 1798, a wild boy was captured in the woods of Southern France. The boy aged about twelve, unable to speak and his responses limited to a few guttural sounds, had apparently lived as a beast since early babyhood.

Based on this incident, the film depicts the efforts of a young Parisian doctor, Dr. Itard, who works in a school for deaf mutes, and who takes the boy into his personal care and tries to turn him into a presentable human being.

When first discovered, the boy is naked, filthy and ferocious. After being locked up by the local police, he is later transferred to Paris. At the school there, the Head considers the boy to be a classical idiot. But his young colleague, Dr. Itard, has different ideas and persuades the Head to allow him to experiment with the boy. Believing in the boy's inherent humanity, the doctor devotes himself to the task of awakening the boy's spirit and consciousness. Washed, sheared, and dressed, the boy is given a name and taught to walk upright. Then begins the demanding daily routine aimed at converting an inert, almost sub-human creature into a person capable of affection, sensitivity, communication, and even invention.

Francois Truffaut may well have made his best film to date in this lucid, penetrating, detailing of a young doctor's attempt to civilise a retarded boy...

Though based on a true case, it eschews didactics and creates a poetic, touching and dignified relationship between the doctor and his savage charge.

Mosk in Variety

Actor Truffaut... is a splendid blend of pomposity and curiosity. But Director Truffaut is lethargic and clinical. The Wild Child is never touched by his characteristic warmth; its ironies are all predictable, save the final one: this is Truffaut's crudest work as if it were his first film in the canon and not his latest.

Stefan Kanfer, Time

See also...


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The metaphysics of immortality mean that man must find woman again and again. An abstract shape undergoes a series of transformations and becomes a dancing woman. Another abstract shape comes to life ... More »


Francois Truffaut first came to the attention of the filmworld and filmgoing public when, in his first feature, he told the story of the childhood and early adolescence of Antoine Doinel (The 400 ... More »


In this animated puppet film, Blue Beard's seventh bride is given the keys to the castle, and, while left alone, discovers marvellous, but tragic secrets. ... Prize for Best First Film: Annecy. ... More »

The Smyrna Scarf

In the summer of 1832, a hawker travelled over hill and dale to the farms, villages and castles of Southern France, Everywhere his lovely wares were in great demand. But tragedy followed in his wake ... More »

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