Friday, March 12, 2010

The History of Adele H.

L'Histoire d'Adèle H. (The History of Adele H.), 1975
Dir: François Truffaut

Is there something obsessive about love, the constant act of overvaluation? Truffaut's mid-70s query finds its lens set on Adele Hugo (Isabelle Adjani), the youngest daughter of great French writer Victor Hugo, as she fanatcally follows around her "true love," the English soldier Lt. Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson), who is a womanizer (unless he is in a scene with Adele, almost always seen with a different woman. The setting for most of the film is in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Pinson is stationed, with the backdrop of all the intrigue that was going on in the city during the American Civil War (so, 1862). Along with her obsession, she is haunted by the drowning death of her older sister, Leopoldine, a vision which frequents her nightmares. At first, we might think that Adele is just there to set straight some misunderstanding between the two, despite the fact that she is there under an assumed name. But we soon start to understand that Adele is crazy, a compulsive liar who will tell a fib for no reason. Pleas from her family and a distressed Lt. Pinson to return home to her father's exile on Guernsey are ignored. The obsession gets so bad that she writes to her father that they are going to be married, and insists on being called Madam Pinson. Of course the rouse is uncovered but Adele is undaunted. Her father sends her money to come home, but she spends it to follow Albert to Barbados, where she finally loses all semblance of sanity, not even recognizing Lt. Pinson when he goes to confront her again. In a epilogue, we learn that she was brought back to her father by an Barbadian woman and then she was institutionalized. She lived there until she died in 1915. A sad story about a sad woman under Truffaut's sympathetic eye with his cinematic touch.


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