The True Story That Inspired the Movie, “The Intouchables”

We often find ourselves dwelling on what we lack, losing sight of what we already possess. This tendency leads us to focus on our deficiencies and the obstacles preventing us from reaching our ideal selves. We delay our happiness, fixating on the disappointment of falling short of our aspirations. Yet, if we dare to challenge our preconceptions and open our hearts, we may encounter individuals who, irrespective of race, social status, or age, reveal not only our strengths but also our inherent worth to the world.

In support of this notion, Bright Side presents the narratives of Count Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Yasmin Sellou, two men who, despite feeling trapped, transcended societal barriers through friendship, transforming their lives and inspiring a motion picture.

Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, a French count and affluent hotel proprietor, enjoyed a privileged upbringing as the son of a duke. Educated and successful, he held prestigious positions, including the managerial role at Moët & Chandon. However, in 1993, a paragliding accident rendered him tetraplegic, plunging him into a profound depression exacerbated by his wife’s battle with cancer. Struggling with his newfound dependency, Philippe spiraled into despair, culminating in a failed suicide attempt. He described the experience as “unbearable,” having always maintained control over his life until then.

On the other hand, Abdel Yasmin Sellou’s background hardly positioned him as an exemplary employee.

Abdel’s upbringing in a modest family with eight siblings fostered impulsive behavior and a volatile temperament. At the age of ten, he relocated to Paris to live with relatives, and by sixteen, he was expelled from school for theft. His delinquent behavior persisted, resulting in his first stint in jail at eighteen for stealing from tourists. Despite his troubled past, Abdel possessed a charismatic charm that endeared him to others upon their initial encounter.

While serving a one-and-a-half-year prison sentence, he received an opportunity to reduce his term to ten months by attending mechanics courses for societal reintegration. Uninterested in mechanics, Abdel sought immediate employment to avoid a return to prison. His application for a caretaker position for a wealthy aristocrat and tetraplegic, along with his ailing wife, proved to be a pivotal moment that transformed his trajectory in life.

Hiring him seemed like the worst idea imaginable, yet it yielded the most remarkable outcomes.

Upon learning about Philippe’s affluent background and refined upbringing, one might question why someone of his stature would consider employing someone like Abdel. However, Philippe, having conducted numerous job interviews throughout his career, recognized in Abdel a potential employee whose qualities transcended his rough exterior. “He didn’t pity me. He was irreverent, cheeky, and possessed a wicked sense of humor. Suddenly, life became enjoyable again,” Philippe remarked, defending his decision.

Philippe and Abdel often engaged in lighthearted mischief, such as convincing police officers that they were speeding to the hospital. Philippe asserted, “I needed a wake-up call. Pity serves no purpose. Pity is futile. Pity is what one offers when they’re afraid to truly care.” He believed Abdel was precisely the companion he needed, stating, “I don’t care about his past. I needed him. And he became a friend thereafter.”

Abdel’s presence brought levity, spontaneity, and humility, a stark contrast to Philippe’s refined demeanor. Gradually, Philippe emerged from his depression. “He treated me as I needed to be treated,” Philippe affirmed. Through Abdel’s unconventional care, Philippe experienced moments of exhilaration, such as jogging together and daringly exceeding speed limits, breaking the monotony of his daily routine.

Their friendship, a lifeline that transformed them and resonated with many, emerged from desperate circumstances. Abdel reflected on their initial encounter: “We were two lost souls seeking an escape; the grieving wealthy man mourning his wife’s death and the ex-convict eager to defy the world. Two outcasts finding solace in each other.” After a decade of camaraderie and growth, their paths diverged during a trip to Morocco in 2003, where they both found love. Philippe narrated, “Abdel and I went our separate ways when we found our soulmates,” noting the absence of sorrow or hardship in their parting.

Philippe, having married a Muslim woman, relocated to her homeland to start a family. Meanwhile, Abdel, who married around the same time, now manages a poultry farm in Algeria, cherishing a settled life with three children, who affectionately refer to Philippe as their uncle. “In the past, settling down wasn’t even on my radar,” Abdel admitted. “I was only interested in fleeting relationships. Now, I’m content, focused on my new chapter.” Following their transformative friendship, both men penned books recounting their unique perspectives: Abdel authored “You Have Changed My Life,” while Philippe wrote “Untouchable,” the title inspiring the acclaimed French film based on their extraordinary bond.

In the present day, Abdel occasionally makes trips to Morocco to reunite with his friend, Philippe. When they’re not able to meet face-to-face, Philippe takes the initiative to reach out and hear about Abdel’s adventures and amusing escapades. Their bond exemplifies how individuals from vastly different backgrounds can navigate significant challenges. Just as adversity does not discriminate based on social status, neither does genuine friendship or affection. Even in our darkest moments, there’s often a supportive presence urging us to step beyond our comfort zones and discover our potential.

What resonated with you the most about this narrative? Share with us if you’ve experienced a friendship that has brought enrichment to your life, or if you’re familiar with stories as uplifting and inspiring as that of Philippe and Abdel.

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