THE WILD CHILD (1970) [Feature]

France (MIFF 1971 , Programme 8)

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

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