The Hedgehog (Le hérisson)
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
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
In French with English subtitles.
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