The Hedgehog (Le hérisson) (2009)

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Released 10-Nov-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 100:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up ?
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mona Achache

Madman Entertainment
Starring Josiane Balasko
Garance Le Guillermic
Togo Igawa
Anne Brochet
Ariane Ascaride
Wladimir Yordanoff
Sarah Lepicard
Jean-Luc Porraz
Gisèle Casadesus
Mona Heftre
Achache Samuel
Valérie Karsenti
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Gabriel Yared

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Not having read the smash-hit novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog it is difficult to know what is meant by the tagline that this French made film was "freely inspired" by the work of Muriel Barbery. Left to be judged on its own merits the film, directed by newcomer Mona Achache, is a sometimes enchanting, sometimes frustrating and sometimes a moving account of the rebirth of two souls, both crushed before their time.

     Paloma Josse (Garance Le Guillermic) is an eleven year old going on 30 year old, trapped in a meaningless existence. Living with her bourgeois politician father, anti-depressant-addled mother and often annoying sister in a fancy apartment in Paris, she has determined that her next birthday is to be her last. Counting down the days to the big day she has set her sights on two things - taking her own life on the birthday and recording on video the emptiness and hypocrisy of her family as testament to the method in her madness.

     Meanwhile, dumpy Maree (Josiana Balasko) is the concierge of the apartments. For 27 years she has been attending to the whims of the rich and powerful, living a seemingly dull and empty life. When a tenant dies and another moves in the lives of all are irrevocably changed. The new tenant, a Japanese widower named Kakuro Ozu (Togo Ugawa), is intrigued by Maree and Paloma. He sees the wisdom and sadness in both, drawing the curious Paloma into observing and assisting their growing friendship. Maree has a secret. She is no mop-swilling, package delivering, problem solving stereotypical janitor but a sensitive intelligent woman who has hidden her intelligence in order to fulfil her "role" as the "servant" to the tenants.

     The Hedgehog (Le hérisson) is part philosophy, questioning ideas of identity and purpose in life, and part love story as the long repressed Maree slowly opens up to the persistent Japanese man. That story is delicately and sometimes movingly told in no small part due to the performances of the leads. A scene when Maree visits a hairdresser for the first time is subtly and movingly played. The other story, the Paloma suicide story, suffers from a case of the unrealities. The child is only 11 but she has the vocabulary and philosophical insight of an undergraduate philosophy major. Her problems seem slight as her parents are not evil or uncaring, just a little self-absorbed. She is nicely played by the young actress but her character comes across as too smug to really care too much about. Perhaps it works better on the page? Aside from the human performers mention has to be made of the variety of cats on show here, including Maree's very compliant Leo!

     This is an interesting film and has some wonderful moments, particularly the clumsy scenes between the widow and widower as they begin to open up about their lives. The book was such a huge success that the film will probably be a bit of a disappointment to devotees of the novel.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     The Hedgehog was shot on 35mm film and projected in the cinema at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The original aspect ratio has been preserved for this DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The image quality is sharp without being overly so, suiting the somewhat dour mood of the piece. The film balances the somewhat dull and dimly lit interiors with overcast exteriors - there is little brightness about. The colours are stable and consistent throughout. The flesh tones are accurate.

     There are no technical defects with the transfer. I noticed a tiny instance of aliasing but otherwise it is commendable. There is a mild cinematic grain.

     There are removable subtitles in English. They are clear and easy to read. I have only one problem with the subtitles. The DVD case refers to Maree as a "consierge" whereas the film translates her role as "janitor". Both don't seem quite right as her role is more of a multi-talented caretaker. It is certainly closer to concierge.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The Hedgehog comes with a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track running at 448Kb/s and a 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s. The dialogue is rendered clearly in both tracks. The surrounds are used sparingly to create street ambience and the surround effect of rain. Otherwise this is pretty much a front and centre track. The sub-woofer is mainly parked in the garage.

     There is an original score by Gabriel Yared, who scored Betty Blue and, more recently, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, which is Bach-like and serious in its themes.

     The actors appear to be in audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     There are two extras on this DVD.

Deleted Scenes

     There are 7 deleted scenes in total. They are quite short with the exception of a piece about the deceased tenant. Apparently he was a restaurant critic and his dying wish was to have a shameful meal of supermarket cakes. It probably added to the theme of hiding who we really are for the sake of society but the cake reference was a little obscure. Some interesting brief moments.

Theatrical Trailer

     The short trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD has been released in Region 1, however I have not been able to determine whether the extras are any different. Buy the Region 4.


     The Hedgehog is an amiable French comedy drama. I imagine that fans of the book maybe underwhelmed by the film, although there are some really nice moments between the ageing concierge and the Japanese widower.

     The DVD looks and sounds quite good. The extras are brief.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Thursday, January 06, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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