The Hedgehog (Le
Director Mona Achache ponders mortality lusciously, in the guise of a
Parisian apartment block for the wealthier of its citizens. It is here
that eleven year old Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) starts documenting
her proposed final months of life. She intends to suicide on her up
coming birthday for various reasons, mainly relating to her intelligent
but preoccupied political father, her seemingly vacuous mother and
self-absorbed older sister.
Paloma feels her life
to be like that of her sister's fish, which is bound to its bowl except
for that one time a week when the cleaner refreshes its water to stop it
dying of its own waste. Some of her observations and phrasing are
downright unsettling to watch and bit of a stretch to believe.
befriends the unkempt and withdrawn concierge Renée (Josiane Balasko),
who is happiest with her cat, her books, tea and stockpiles of dark
chocolate. However, their world is rocked when a distinguished and
mysterious Japanese man, Mr Ozu (Togo Igawa), moves into a vacated
apartment. A bond over the love of Tolstoy (all a bit cute, what with
cat names out of Anna Karenina) soon leads to a veritable
transformation in Renée—no longer the hedgehog!
I quite enjoyed this
pretty film, even if it's not too challenging or confronting. The actors
are all very good, especially Guillermic, who is credible as an
incredible, intensely intelligent eccentric with a promising future. The
set design is gorgeous and handled well, given that for almost the whole
movie, we never leave the building; the risks in going outside are
It really hammers home
the message about the preciousness of being alive and the love and
friendship which make it all worthwhile. Though as I said, the character
of Paloma can ring a bit hollow: I wouldn't like to be related to such a
freaky young girl. The director also insisted on Paloma using an
older-style analogue video camera to record her thoughts and feeling in
the big count-down, making the POV shots warmer.
has within it the sad reality that often, the possessors of beautiful
things do not know their true value, treasuring only the social-status
facet of these objects. It is left for the meek, lonely, lowly janitor
to sit in solitude with an exquisite two-volume first-edition and imbue
the aesthetic aura. There is a sense of injustice in the whole thing,
which I wish had been more than hinted at.
Definitely see the
movie if you like books or Paris or both, but maybe take some tissues.