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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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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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