The Wild Child

Posted by schnolis on April 19th, 2009 filed in Reviews

THE WILD CHILDSometime around 1800 a naked boy was observed roaming a forest in the French countryside. His eventual captors realized he was essentially feral, having somehow existed outside the boundaries of other men. He was around 12 years old, and his story was published around France. Eventually a young medical doctor, Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, obtained custody of the boy and tried to socialize him and teach him language.

The movie The Wild Child is based on true events about such a young boy, ultimately given the name Victor. He is a dirty, skinny child who has been living completely isolated from other humans by foraging in the woods for mushrooms and drinking from streams. When captured he was obviously frightened and often bit at his captors. During his transport, he is leashed like a dog and other men and children taunt him. He is a bizarre novelty, and is never treated humanely until the Doctor takes him as a charge.

Dr. Itard has an interest in learning whether the boy has inside him what he considers human. Those two elements are an ability to communicate using language and a general emotional understanding of right and wrong. While he ultimately succeeds in the latter, the former is never fully grasped. Despite all his attempts, Victor never really grasps language as a concept except for understanding a few words.

The beauty in the movie is the way that Victor eventually opens up and adapts to the human way of living. Much of the movie is overdubbed with the doctor’s words as he writes in his journal. While it was obvious the doctor cared for Victor, the movie presentation felt cold, clinical and dispassionate. Some of the cuts and fade-outs were stylized from an earlier period of film, and gave it a sense of being closer in sync with the pre-film era during which these events took place. I certainly enjoyed the film, and I’m sorry I missed seeing it in the theater.

What I liked: A touching story of human exploration and kindness. I was very eager to see what would happen simply because of my own curiosity. I wondered what would happen if a child were discovered today under these circumstances.

What I disliked: Abruptness in the story telling. Many things weren’t adequately explained. This might have been a translation problem. The doctor was very cold and methodical most of the time, even if he did seem to care overall.

Rating: 6 of 10

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