August 8, 2008
Bertille’s Harrowing Brush With Nature
Luc Jacquet, director of the Oscar-winning March Of The Penguins, heads for sunnier climes in this family feature, which smudges the line separating wildlife documentary from sentimental drama.
Inspired by the filmmaker's bucolic childhood in the mountains of Ain, The Fox And The Child is a visually stunning valentine to changing seasons in a woodland community and the delicate balance between man and nature.
The production spent six months in the Retord plateau and Abruzzes National Park in Italy, capturing footage of wild foxes in their natural habitat, documenting behavioural patterns which would then be integrated into the screenplay penned by Jacquet and Eric Rognard.
Omnipresent voiceover provides a direct link between the stunning imagery, captured by director of photography Gerard Simon, and young actress Bertille Noel-Bruneau as the pint-sized villager who learns to her cost that some creatures can never be tamed.
"My story started one day on the way to school. I remember it well. I was ten years old . . ." begins narrator Kate Winslet, relating the inner thoughts of a little girl (Noel-Bruneau) as she wanders along a path.
The freckled, red-haired tyke merrily traipses along her usual route, surrounded by the colours of autumn, until a bend in the path where she spies a fox.
Enchanted by the majestic creature, whom she christens Lily, the girl arrogantly decides to impose herself on this untouched wilderness.
"I decided I would tame the fox . . . I had no idea it was the beginning as great adventure," she confides excitedly.
The girl spends long hours shadowing the fox, until a broken limb forces her to spend much of the winter at home, recuperating with a cast.
Meanwhile, the object of her obsession frolics in the snow.
"I was free again after two months indoors," trills Winslet as the girl dashes into the springtime undergrowth in search of the fox, witnessing gorgeous scenes of everyday animal life involving playful badgers, otters, woodpeckers, frogs and even a bear.
Eventually, the meddlesome urchin gets her wish and she attempts to domesticate the fox, with truly horrific and bloody consequences that will probably upset very young viewers and most parents too.
"I confused possession with love," concludes Winslet ruefully.
The Fox And The Child is blessed with gorgeous cinematography and a haunting orchestral score, but the flimsy storyline struggles to hold our interest for 94 minutes.
Scenes of the girl pursuing her vulpine prey become a little repetitive, severely testing the patience of small children in the audience.
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