Another French Job – Truffaut’s “The Story of Adele H.”

Francois Truffaut’s French picture, The Story of Adele H. (1975), is a partly fictitious period piece about Adele Hugo’s unending pursuit of a British lieutenant with whom she once had a romance.  (Adele was the daughter of Victor Hugo.)  He doesn’t want her, but she obsessively wants him.

The idea was long ago expressed that there is in the one who obsessively and relentlessly loves a person unworthy of that love not only pathology but also greatness.  Critic John Simon pointed out that in Adele H. Truffaut failed to see this, and so his heroine’s greatness is casually ignored.  This is too bad, but at least the film has themes and beauty and is highly interesting.

Are there people who turn amatory love into a religion?  Sure.  They’re everywhere.  This is one of the themes in the film.  Isabelle Adjani enacts Adele and is perfect, supplying the character’s remoteness, determination and sheer fragility.  The British lieutenant is too cold—played well enough, however, by Bruce Robinson.  Truffaut’s direction is gratifyingly good, with those charming fadeouts and wipes included.  The costumes by Jacqueline Guyot and the production design by Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko are winning.

Somewhat underrated by critics, The Story of Adele H. needs to be given its due.

(In French with English subtitles.)

Cover of "The Story of Adele H."
Cover of The Story of Adele H.

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