The Forbidden Experiment, 1980

book by Roger Shattuck

L’enfant Sauvage, 1970

Film by Francois Truffaut

Nature VS nurture. Who is not affected or “corrupted” by civilization? The idea of an innate moral sense in men – think of the noble savage – is on the rise again, yet it’s reception is always subject to fluctuation. Early cases of ‘wild’ men, often children, have been described from the 17th century onwards – apart from mythological stories, like those of Romulus and Remulus. Questions about nature and nurture were taken seriously as science tried to name and categorize the development of humans, and the understanding of the natural world in the 18th and 19th century. Around the 20th century, psychologists were attempting to differentiate between behavior and biological culture. Feral children who lived in isolation or with animals provided examples of this dilemma. To make a fiction film about it, as Francois Truffaut did, with professional and non-professional actors adds another layer to the question what authenticity in behavior consists of: acting as a form of mimicking of feelings and gestures is a strong reminder of the way we learn what ‘good’ behavior is, and what normality in our culture consists of.

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