STORY OF ADELE H., THE (L’Histoire d’Adele H.)

(director/writer: Francois Truffaut; screenwriters: Jean Gruault/Suzanne Schiffman/from “The Diary of Adele Hugo”; cinematographer: Nestor Almendros; editor: Yann Decet/Jean Gargonne/Martine Barraque/Michele Neny/Muriel Zeleny; music: Maurice Jaubert; cast: Isabelle Adjani (Adele H.), Bruce Robinson (Lieutenant Pinson), Sylvia Marriott (Mrs. Saunders), Joseph Blatchley (Mr. Whistler), Reubin Dorey (Mr. Saunders), M. White (Colonel), Roger Martin (Dr. Murdock), Madame Louise (Madame Baa), Joseph Blatchley (Mr. Whistler); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marcel Berbert/Claude Miller; MGM Home Entertainment; 1975-France-in French and English with English subtitles)
“Brilliant performance by Adjani.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director and cowriter Francois Truffaut (“The Woman Next Door”/”The Green Room”/”Two English Girls”) bases this muted, slow paced and stilted psychological drama on real events and real people, as it’s lifted from the pages of the real-life diaries of Adele Hugo (it was written in code and decoded in 1955-Adele died in 1915 at the age of 85). She’s the daughter of the great French writer Victor Hugo.

In 1863, the 19-year-old Adele Hugo (Isabelle Adjani, was thirty when this was filmed), the second daughter of Victor Hugo, has fallen madly in love in the Isle of Guernsey with a young philandering English soldier, Lt. Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson), who seduced her and was snubbed by her family. Despite his indifference to her after his conquest, she leaves her father’s exiled home to hook up with the English soldier in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unfortunately for Adele, Pinson rebuffs her advances. But Adele is obsessed by him and keeps futilely chasing after him, and follows him after he’s transferred to Barbados in the West Indies. Unable to accept this rejection, she lets herself go and becomes a vagrant talking to herself in the streets about an imagined romance while dressed in rags, as her misplaced passion turns self-destructive into madness. Eventually the tormented Adele returns home to her father, after living through a humiliating experience and her spoiled willful acts making life difficult for her soldier acquaintance.

Truffaut called the period film “a musical composition written for one instrument.” But aside from the film’s stunningly beautiful visuals (courtesy of cinematographer Nestor Almendros) and the brilliant performance by Adjani, who brings out a grandeur to such a troubled woman, this turgid storyline, aiming for a meditation on love, mostly follows the usual clichèd manipulative Hollywood formula of unrequited love as the be all and end all–albeit with some fresh intelligent offerings to give it a somewhat different feel.