L’Histoire d’Adele H. (The Story of Adele H.) is a French film directed by François Truffaut based on the true story of Adele Hugo, daughter of Victor Hugo. Victor Hugo was one of the leading names in literature who is considered France’s greatest asset in poetry, novel and drama in Europe’s age of Romanticism. As much as father had earned a name of honor and respect in his field, his daughter met tragic fate for which she is known.
A British army officer loved and proposed her which she refused. Later she had a change of heart and travelled Halifax during American Civil War to declare but the soldier loved her no more after the refusal. That drove her insane and made failed attempts to win him. Her obsession increased and began showing signs of mental illness.
Yes François is hard to ignore in my reviews but first, the biggest plus was Isabelle Adjani‘s leading performance as Adele. It is hard to describe but she was very impressive in depicting different phases of one-sided affair. Her facial reactions, her eye-contact, her speaking to herself, her writing letters and so many demanding elements of this specific performance! The beginning of Adele’s frustration after the first scene of his refusal is the moment where her body language was so realistic, natural and with time, began to increase the level of astonishment. She was inclined towards the misery and more did she prove to be showstopper.
Now the second credit goes to François, whose marvelous direction just propels you. With her quest of lost love, you are more obsessed than her to find out to what limit she will drop herself in hunger of winning his heart. The case is not only his direction but François’ collective belief on the-then 19yo Adjani. Keeping in mind, she wasn’t a popular name with very short number of films to her credit before making this. That is the quality and one of the most successful features of a director how he builds and maintains his trust on the leading actor for a certain film and that was the case of François himself. Take an example of his Antoine series in which he believed on Léaud‘s abilities to function the age-crossing role of Antoine Daniel to an extent that he went on to make five films in 20 years on his beloved character.
To my knowledge, this is the only known film based on Adele’s tragic story. You won’t see the character of Victor Hugo in the film but listen, and I think it makes sense. Besides Isabelle, all performances are below par but the viewers have no business to take a look on other performances than beautiful Adjani as Adele. The-then teenager Adjani was nominated for Best Actress in Academy Awards for this role despite being the role from a non-English film. She was the youngest to be nominated in the category by that time.
A profoundly beautiful, tragic and dark film. Well done François/Adjani.