The first film of our new programme is the delightful Le Hérisson. Below is my exact wording from seeing the film at last year’s British Federation of Film Societies’ annual national conference. I don’t particularly like how many reviews give so many plot details away so this is short and snappy, but I still recommend not reading any of it and just booking your ticket here right now.
The screening of Mona Achache‘s Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog) was no doubt bolstered by the presence of one of the film’s lead actors Togo Igawa, who was in attendance throughout the weekend and was such a humble and polite individual.
The film, an adaptation of Muriel Barbery’s ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’, is an extremely sophisticated and philosophical look at eleven year old Paloma’s (Garance Le Guillermic) attempts to make sense of the adult world in which she is about to enter. We are introduced to the film via Paloma’s video diary, wherein she will document her life surrounded by ‘rich’ people until her next birthday, at which point she will kill herself.
As instantly alarming as this premise is, the film exudes such a warm heartedness and sincerity that the trio of superb lead characters cannot fail to win you over. The temporal route to Paloma’s birthday-suicide is truncated by the intertwined, burgeoning relationships with two other characters: Renée (Josiane Balasko), the janitor, who tends to the ‘rich’ tenants – that are so despised by Paloma – is the metaphoric ‘hedgehog’ of the title. Then there is the exotic, newly arrived neighbour Kakuro Ozu (the aforementioned Togo Igawa).
Amongst these emotional connections, the film is a love letter to creativity and the creatively minded, with not only the film itself being a masterpiece, and the source material on which it is adapted a mentally and philosophically creative novel, but all characters that we are urged to like celebrate/practice the arts in some way or another. There’s Paloma’s transfixing sketches and her passion for filmmaking, along with the many literary and cinematic references scattered throughout the film.
It wasn’t only I that was charmed by this near perfect piece of cinema, as the average rating from the attendees came out at 96.7% (calculated from 30 audience ratings out of 5).