While I was in Italy, I watched a really great movie, guess what, it was French! Directed by Mona Achache, it is based on a bestselling novel by French writer Muriel Barbery. Its original title is “Le Hérisson”, in italian, “Il Riccio”. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be translated into English sadly, but hopefully if the DVD comes out they will make it with English subtitles.
The basic storyline deals with Paloma, a suicidal 12 year old, way too intelligent and perceptive to accept the shallow and banal lifestyle of her upper class French family. Thus, she has decided to kill herself on her 13th birthday. Before she does this though, she is dedicating herself to making a film which explains why life is so absurd.
A few floors below her apartment lives another perceptive, unconventional character. Renée, who is by title the apartment’s dull lower-class concierge. Through the help of another fascinating inhabitant of the apartments, Paloma discovers who Renée really is: a lover of literature, a lover of films, a lover of people. She is, much like Paloma, a hedgehog (un hérisson), who hides her elegant and tender core with a thick emballage of sharp spikes.
The film follows their growing interaction, and their struggle against the truly dull and blind people in their lives, many of whom are found in the same building Paloma and Renée live in.
I read the novel a year or so ago, and found it super, although very heavily littered with literary quotes from Tolstoy and other “greats”. The film manages to translate this passion for literature in an interesting way – Paloma’s passion for journal writing is transformed into a determination to make a film before her death. This allows the film to be a lot less text-based, and gives the story an aesthetic which the book could not have, due to its heavy reliance on literary quotes. For anyone who can understand French or Italian, I would recommend both reading and watching the story.
This is definitely not a chickflick, or a little movie to project young Garance Le Guillermic into tween stardom. With witty, sardonic touches, lovely cinematography and some top class acting, this is a sociopolitical commentary which will resonate far beyond France.
-> Interesting articles can be found by searching “Il Riccio” on Google, but unfortunately all the ones I found were in Italian.
-> Good quality photos of the film are available here