Part film, part nature documentary, The Fox and the Child was directed by Luc Jacquet and is one of many nature films and documentaries that he has created. Prior to this movie he made March of the Penguins and Il Était Une Forêt was his follow up project. The movie is set in the Giron, located within the Ain department of France, an area chosen by the director as the story is a partial retelling of memories and experiences that happened during his childhood and the Giron was the area he grew up in. Jacquet hasn’t specifically mentioned what parts are completely true to his life, though it is interesting to note that he made the main character a girl. In an interview for Pathe UK he tells us that he decided to use a female actress, Bertille Noël-Bruneau, as she would be more curious and sensitive, therefore more accurately portraying the character he wanted for this story; it was thought that a boy would be more brash and brutish.
There is little plot within the movie; it is a simple story about a child that becomes obsessed with a fox and sets about trying to tame it. Once the fox is more tame the film goes on to show the interactions they have. The lack of a plot is made up for by the amazing cinematography, which is the reason many describe the movie as a nature documentary. Much of the budget would have been spent in this department and if the director was attempting to make a high quality documentary then he has achieved this.
When creating the scenes with the fox both wild and tame foxes were used. Six tame foxes were used during the production of the movie and the wild foxes and other wildlife were mostly filmed in the Abruzzo National Park, located in Italy. A team of cinematographers were sent there, for several months, to collect footage and this process was documented for a separate production entitled On the Trail of the Fox. There were few special effects used in the filming of this movie and in some interviews the director said he used none. However, in an interview for Digitalspy.com he did hint at the fact that some tricks were used in the chase scene between the fox and the lynx. I also think that some effects were used in the scenes with the wolves. In that scene they either would have used very tame wolves or would have used split screen technology, which would have allowed the scene to be filmed separately with the individual characters then merged together.
What follows is a brief description of the film. Since the ending is described, those who wish to view the film first are advised not to continue. Also I would mention a link to the film, however the videos are quickly removed quickly for copyright violations, making such links pointless.
The story starts with the child travelling to her school. During her journey she observes a fox and though the encounter is brief it creates a strong desire in the child to see the animal again.
Throughout Autumn she spends as much time as is possible in the local forests, observing its inhabitants, though her main aim is to find the fox. However this never occurs and as winter sets in she learns how to identify the tracks different animals leave in the snow. While on one of her tracking expeditions she is startled by the howling of wolves. As they sound close by, the girl panics and tries to run home. In the process of running home she falls and seriously injures her ankle, which renders her house-bound until the spring arrives.
During her recovery we observe the child reading books about foxes and other animals of the forest. We are also shown scenes of the fox hunting, finding a mate as well as escaping from a lynx.
Springtime arrives and the girl recovers so she resumes her exploration in the woods; this sequence devotes a lot of time to the nature-based cinematography. The following scenes show her finding many fox’s dens, including one that is that is obviously inhabited.
Sitting amongst some bushes she patiently waits for the fox to appear; however the fox is very wary of humans, more so now that it has cubs, so only appears after the girl has left. The fox is so upset that a human has discovered its home that it starts moving its young to another den and, coincidentally, the child sees the fox moving the last of it’s young. The girl, understanding that the fox is extremely frightened, decides to observe the fox from a distance and, after many days, she sees it again.
The next scenes, which occur over several weeks, depict the girl trying to gradually tame the fox. She starts to put out pieces of bacon that lead to her tree. The fox initially flees as soon as it knows that there is a human nearby, but gradually starts coming closer. After many weeks the fox allows her to follow it from a distance—another sequence that allows for a lot of nature cinematography—and takes food from her hand.
During the summer the girl lives through many adventures with the fox. The following scenes show both characters exploring a stream, as well as travelling through a cave system and almost getting lost inside. Fortunately, they only spend one night in the forest and are found by the child’s parents in the morning.
In their next encounter the child finds the fox trapped on top of a tree trunk and surrounded by wolves. She manages to save the fox by screaming, throwing objects at the wolves and generally acting crazy.
After this encounter the fox allows the child to visit its home and interact with the cubs.
In appreciation the child decides to show the fox her home. She entices it up to her bedroom, closes the door and starts to show the fox around. Unfortunately, the fox does not like the enclosed space and panics. Running and jumping around the room in a desperate attempt to escape, it eventually jumps through a closed window and falls to the ground.
Grief stricken, the girl carries the fox back to it’s home and promises it that she won’t force it to do anything it doesn’t like if it gets well again.
As she walks off she notices that the fox has survived; this will be the last time she sees it. From then on the fox keeps away from the child though she does still hear it calling.
In researching this movie I noticed that some plot descriptions have slight differences to them which means the film has multiple versions. The description above is just one of the ways the movie plays out.