(1975)4Michael CostelloIsabelle Adjani attained stardom in her first major role as the eponymous daughter of Victor Hugo in Truffaut's somber study of romantic obsession, a subject he explored obsessively in films such as Les Deux Anglaises de la Continent (1971), La Chambre Vert (1978), La Sirene du Mississippi (1969), and others. Based on a coded diary discovered in 1960, the film follows the young woman's pursuit of a British lieutenant Bruce Robinson, with whom she's become infatuated, on the island of Nova Scotia. Despite his unambiguous lack of interest, she at one point writes to her father to announce their forthcoming wedding, her mind gently parting from its moorings. As she becomes increasingly desperate to win the indifferent soldier, Adele offers money and sex, along with a promise to obey him slavishly, even buying him a prostitute, while continuing to degrade herself even further. After he's driven her away, she becomes a voyeur of his assignations with other women, descending slowly into madness. Like La Chambre Verte and Les Deux Anglaises, the film links the creation of art with powerfully repressed emotion, as the young woman fills reams of paper with her occasionally lucid, more often deranged stream-of-consciousness. Like Vertigo (1958), it evokes the overwhelmingly impersonal force of erotic attraction, as it transforms the object of desire into a fetish. Shooting in the style of a sober documentary with a desaturated palette, Truffaut modulates the growth of his heroine's obsession so carefully and with such sympathy, that, up to a point, her experience is easily recognizable, and even in the depths of madness, completely engrossing. Adjani is sublime as the tormented young woman, possibly the most unforgettable embodiment of tragic beauty on film.