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The Story of Adele H.


The great French writer and patriot Victor Hugo had two sons and two daughters.  His oldest daughter died in a boating accident.  His youngest daughter became mentally ill.  This is Adele Hugo who in her 30s ran away from home in 1863 to follow her love to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The movie starts with her arrival in Halifax and how she tracks down her lover, Lieutenant Pinson, and tries to get him to marry her.  He then is transferred to Barbados in the Caribbean and she follows him there as well as she becomes increasingly ill.  Finally a kind and gentle former slave takes care of her and helps to arrange for her return to the home of her father.  She is then placed in a home where she lived out her long life---she died at 85 having outlived her parents and siblings.


The scene from the movie that I would like you to see is where she meets her lover for the first time since coming to Halifax.  She proclaims her undying love only to be rejected.  However, in her mind she refuses to accept this reality and begins to live in a fantasy world where she thinks in terms of his loving her and even invents the wedding, which she reports to her father as having occurred.


The man she was pursuing was in the army because he was a gambler who had debts which forced him into the military---as a way of avoiding debtors prison.  Her father, understandably, was opposed to the relationship and this is what caused Adele to run away.  By the time the father was willing to allow the marriage, the young man was no longer interested in Adele.


Vincent Canby wrote for the New York Times  the following about Francois Truffaut's film when it came out in 1975: "Unable to cope with the truth, and using her imagination and her feelings as carefully as someone writing a piece of fiction, Adele created another world where she became Lieutenant Pinson's wife, where love was her religion (and no humiliation too great a sacrifice), and where she kept a coded journal, only recently deciphered.  It is this journal that is the basis for Mr. Truffaut's most severe, most romantic meditation upon love…The Story of Adele H. is not a psychiatric case history, though all the facts seem to be there if one wants to accept it as such.  Rather it's a poet's appreciation of the terrifying depth of Adele's feelings, which, early on, drive her to lying to her family, to making life miserable for Lieutenant Pinson in Halifax (including canceling his engagement to someone else), to spying on him happily, as he makes love to another woman.  She's willful and spoiled and, the film understands, impossible to deal with.  Yet the film makes us see both the madness and the grandeur of the passion."


The film is in French with often hard to read subtitles.


Isabelle Adjani plays Adele beautifully and she received an Academy Award nomination for her effort.  The film was voted one of the best foreign films of the year and won a number of awards.  Other Truffaut films include: The Wild Child, Fahrenheit 451, the 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, Shoot the Piano Player, Day for Night, The Last Metro.  Other films with Adjani include: Diabolique, The Tenant, Camille Claudel.

That year the Academy Award for best Actress went to Louise Fletcher for her role in   One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

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