Sadness To Madness — THE STORY OF ADÈLE H.

The Story of Adèle H. was released by Twilight Time last month in a limited edition of 3000 units.

The Story of Adèle H. is not a happy one.

When we first meet her, she’s arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia, a place where both English and French are commonly spoken (she and most of the other characters alternate between both). As she introduces herself into the community, we see the strange holes developing in her story. She frequently lies about her identity and agenda. Most troublingly, we hear her tell different versions of her relationship to one Lieutenant Albert Pinson. The casualness of her constant falsehoods is alarming.

Eventually it becomes clear that the unhappy Adèle is in love with Pinson, a British officer, and has followed him to his station in Canada. The two were once romantically involved, but Pinson moved on.

She didn’t.

Pinson rebuffs Adèle’s constant advances, and as this wears on her behavior becomes more alarming. As she writes letters to her parents, her constant casual lying about her situation reveals not only her manipulation of the truth, but the reinforcement of these lies to herself. She must create these elaborate fictions in hope that she can force them to come true.

An interesting thing about films, particularly romances — there’s a fine line between love and obsession. When someone goes to great lengths to win the love of another, the same kinds of aggressive, forceful affection can be depicted either way, and in our fictions the difference often boils down to whether the pursued party gives in. If so, it’s the culmination of a sweeping, vigorous romance. If not, it’s creepy stalking. Adèle’s constant declarations of love and increasingly desperate advances demonstrate the deterioration of her normalcy.

The title’s abbreviation of Adèle’s last name is not incidental. Her identity adds another layer of complexity to the true story. I’m not sure how jealously guarded the secret is, but it was not spoiled for me and I’m glad to have been surprised by it, so I daren’t spoil it for anyone.

The film brims with the understated beauty of authentic locations and the Canadian touch of both English and French being fluently spoken by many of the characters, even to the point of being casually alternated within the course of a single conversation. The narrative is anchored by the performances of Isabelle Adjani and Bruce Robinson. Adjani is convincingly infatuated and neurotic in the lead role, yet without her dramatic performance ever tipping into silliness or overacting. Bruce Robinson as Pinson is understandably frustrated and embarrassed by Adele’s constant harassment. He’s every bit the victim she is; probably more so.

The Package

Twilight Time released The Story of Adèle H. on April 14 in a limited edition of 3000 units.

It’s a fairly standard Twilight Time release with one notable difference: it’s packed in a transparent white case rather than the typical blue (it’s the same case which was used on Fright Night).

The package includes the usual 8-page booklet with notes by Julie Kirgo, best read after seeing the film.

Special Features and Extras

Audio Commentary with Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman

Isolated Score Track

Theatrical Trailer (2:50)

A/V Out.

Available at Screen Archives.

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