14 August 2006 | dbdumonteil
The wild children
In 1969,Truffault made a movie about a wild child: a brat who,since he was a baby ,used to live in the woods.People took him to a hospital,where people would pay to see him like a queer animal.A doctor ,Itard knew that this child was a human being.He took him to his home and began to "tame" him.He realized that his protégé could tell right from wrong:he had proved he was a human like you or me.
Regis Wargnier tells a similar story with his couple of pygmies .He pits a loyal scientist (Fiennes) against the old guard who is still thinking that those natives are the missing link between the big apes and Lucy .Nowadays scientists tend to think that there is actually ONE race but it was the nineteenth century then.The story is never boring and features some good scenes: the natives in front of the sea saying "this is our river" ;the male pygmy climbing on the mast of the ship;the scene in the zoo where Fiennes "tames" his protégés and thus reveals they can think.
The main problem is that the movie is too "Hollywoodian" .Truffaut's work was produced by an American firm ,but he remained himself and his film was austere,realistic and accessible though.Wargnier's work is too flashy ,putting the emphasis on the good guy /"villains" fight and not giving enough time to Fiennes /the pygmies relationship.A firm friendship/ communication cannot be established overnight.It took time to Itard to gain Victor's trust (the wild child) ,and Annie Sullivan ("the miracle worker")had to fight (physically) to be able to communicate with Helen Keller.When Scott- Thomas tries to teach arithmetic (or tries to communicate through arithmetic:I've read that pygmies know only two numbers :one and many)to the pygmy woman ,the sequence is much too short.This is those scenes the film desperately needs.
Entertaining,but Regis Wargnier got caught up into the Hollywood machine.