“One can be in love with a man and still despise everything about him.”
The daughter (Isabelle Adjani) of French novelist Victor Hugo travels undercover to Nova Scotia in pursuit of a former lover (Bruce Robinson), but becomes increasingly unhinged and deluded about their aborted relationship.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately notes that “Francois Truffaut’s extremely passionate telling of the true story of Adele Hugo (Isabelle Adjani), the younger daughter of Victor Hugo” is “a moving, fascinating, original film, beautifully photographed by Nestor Almendros, with special attention to period detail”. He writes that “Truffaut’s characters are always driven by their hearts rather than by reason and, typically, they love those who don’t love them equally or at the same time” — but he notes that “this is the one film where he really explores the humiliation and the pain one can endure when deep love is unfilled”. Indeed, given how undeniably “heartbreaking” Adele’s psychological downfall is, it’s especially remarkable that Truffaut’s film remains as riveting as it is; we can’t help watching with fascination to see what will happen to her next (or rather, what new plan she herself will concoct to perpetuate the life of fantastical lies she’s become so inextricably bound to).
While much credit should go to Almendros and Truffaut’s set designers for presenting such a faithfully rendered, atmospheric vision of the era and location, most of the film’s success belongs squarely on the shoulders of young Adjani, who was deservedly nominated as one of the Best Actresses of the Year by the Academy, and is given this award by Peary in his Alternate Oscars. In this text, he notes that she gives “one of the truly unforgettable performances of the decade” as a woman with “no sense of pride”, who eventually “goes insane” (in real life, Adele was apparently schizophrenic). He provides a bit more analysis of her character’s strange motivations in pointing out that “Adele’s need for love from her suitor is rooted in her need to escape from the house of her unloving father, to prove to him she is worthy of love” — with the ultimate irony being that “becoming slave to another man is her way of achieving freedom from her father”. One can’t help wanting to research more about the real-life Adele Hugo after watching this riveting “biopic”, which does ample justice to her tragic fate.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Isabelle Adjani as Adele H.
- Nestor Almendros’ cinematography
- Fine attention to period detail
Yes, for Adjani’s stunning performance, and as an overall powerful film.