The documentary itself is a true, creative work investigating all the corners of Hergé’s personality. All his life, Hergé questioned his own moral virtue and looked for clarity and wisdom, and his angst and doubts are reflected into the colourful drawings in the Tintin albums.
By coincidence, the director came across material that would provide insight into his main character’s inner, emotional dramas. Østergaard made a scoop in finding old tape recordings of interviews with Hergé made by journalist Numa Sadoul in 1971. The tapes constitute comprehensive autobiographical material about Hergé and were protected from the public by the Hergé family until Østergaard was allowed to use them. The documentary is constructed on the basis of this material, and Sadoul acts like the narrator, sometimes appearing on screen, commenting on his meeting with Hergé thirty years ago. Sadoul almost served as a psychoanalyst for Hergé who let him in on deeply personal aspects of his life and difficult periods of anxiety and depression.
All this is in the film, and the real genius of the director is to have made the film visually extravagant, using technical stunts that match the quality of the comic strip. The fact that the film is shot in HD format only enhances the visual experience. The filmmaker uses only comic strip stills, not clips from the animated Tintin film in which Hergé was only superficially involved, and this proves to be a good choice. After all, animated films and comic strips are two quite different formats and the stills seem more true to Hergé’s art. Stunning 3D images draw us into the universe of the comic strips and a mix of video archive material and drawings works amazingly well. The film crew reconstructed Hergé’s office, and this location serves as the setting of ‘semi-staged’ scenes, where we see the Hergé’s ‘hands’ pointing out images in his albums to an invisible listener on the other side of the table using conversations from the tapes as soundtrack.
For Tintin fans, the documentary is certainly a treat, and for viewers who are simply curious to know more about the man behind the comic strip, the portrait is an honest and successful attempt to understand the agonising emotions and creativity that drove the artist.