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The Story of Adele H. Movie Review

adjani isabelle awards hugo

1975 – Francois Truffaut –

The Story of Adele H. is the sad but true tale of Adele Hugo, the second daughter of French writer and political activist Victor Hugo. Overshadowed all her life by her famous father and her family's favorite sister who drowned, Adele (Isabelle Adjani) uses a ream of paper a week to write her fragmented diary as she follows the object of her obsessive and unrequited love, Lieutenant Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson) and his regiment from station to station. The Lieutenant and Adele met in Guernsey where her family was living and he was stationed. The two had a romantic relationship and the Lieutenant left Guernsey with Adele believing that he had promised to marry her. Whether he proposed or not is never clear. What is clear, however, is that Adele believes many things that have no basis in reality.

Adele literally stalks the object of her obsession, following him to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and refusing to leave as long as he is there. He spurns her repeatedly, but this does not deter her. Believing that she can win him over, she spies on him, prays to his enshrined photograph, tells people they are married and even pretends to be pregnant with his child. Odd as this behavior is, it would seem that Lieutenant Pinson's very presence in Halifax is what keeps Adele from losing all touch with reality. As soon as she believes him to be gone, with no idea where he is, her mental state rapidly deteriorates. She wanders the streets disheveled and destitute like a mad woman.

The Story of Adele H. is not an easy film to watch. The characters are rendered beautifully and the story is told well, but the portrayal of a woman unable to control her words, actions, even her thoughts is almost too realistic and brutal to be comfortable. Adele is neither harmless nor evil, as obsessive, mentally unstable lovers are typically depicted in films. Even more unsettling than Adjani's performance is the fact that the events in this film really happened to the daughter of Victor Hugo. The obsessional nature of the plot produces a film that is curious in its premise but slow and uninvolving in its execution.

Cast: Isabelle Adjani (Adele Hugo), Bruce Robinson (Lt. Pinson), Sylvia Marriott (Mrs. Saunders), Reubin Dorey (Mr. Saunders), Joseph Blatchley (The Bookseller), Ivry Gitlis (Hypnotist), Carl Hathwell (Lt. Pinson's Batman), Francois Truffaut (Officer), M. White (Colonel White), Raymons Falla (Judge Johnstone), Roger Martin (Doctor Murdock), Madame Louise (Madame Baa), Jean-Pierre Leursse (Black penpusher), Louise Bourdet (Victor Hugo's servant), Ralph Williams (Canadian), Edward J. Jackson (O'Brien) Screenwriter: Jan Dawson, Jean Gruault, Francis Vernor Guille, Suzanne Schiffman, Francois Truffaut Cinematographer: Nestor Almendros Composer: Maurice Jaubert Producer: Marcel Berbert and Claude Miller for Films du Carrosse/Artistes Associes Running Time: 96 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1975: Nominations: Actress (Isabelle Adjani); National Board of Review Awards, 1975: Best Foreign Films of the Year, Actress (Isabelle Adjani); New York Film Critics Awards, 1975: Actress (Isabelle Adjani), Screenplay; National Society of Film Critics Awards, 1975: Actress (Isabelle Adjani).

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