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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Hedgehog (Le hérisson)

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

At an upscale apartment house with five luxury flats in Paris, Renee sweeps the sidewalk and picks up litter, takes out the trash bins, keeps the vestibule tidy, arranges for maintenance, and delivers parcels. A widow who was unable to have children, Renee looks dowdy and seldom smiles. When her day is done, she hides away in an inner room lined with books. (Please see the Internet Movie Database for the complete list of cast and crew http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1442519/)
 
A new resident moves in, Kakuro Ozu. He is a handsome man of mature age, a widower, who recognizes that he and the custodian share a love of classical literature. Kakuro invites Renee to dinner in his apartment and her friend borrows a dress for her. He then invites her out to dinner. She refuses, then accepts. Kakuro senses her desire to She gets her hair done for the first time in her life.
 
The character that ties the story together is the 12-year old, Paloma (the name means “dove”) who is in the midst of resolving the existential crisis of meaning about her. She is highly intelligent and planning her suicide on her birthday. As she observes her mother living on pharmaceuticals, her sister Columba’s superficial life on track to follow her mother’s vacuous existence (Columba means “pigeon”), and her wealthy father’s cluelessness about his wife and children, she notices Renee.
 
Paloma video tapes everything around her, a cinematic device we saw this summer with the sci-fi thriller “Super 8”. She’s the one who “sees” Renee and Renee sees Paloma right back.
 
The tensions are set between Renee and Kakuro, Renee and her friend who finds the dress for her, Renee and a homeless man, and Paloma against the world. Throughout the film she is wearing stripes and it made me think that perhaps it was her telling everyone that she is in a prison.
 
I felt that I had seen fine literature come to life with this film that takes place almost entirely  in an apartment building. Indeed the story is based on the critically acclaimed French novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery.
 
At the end, as I watched the credits, I thought: this is why we love cinema.
 
In French with English subtitles.




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