“Anew survey from the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) found that U.
S.feature films account for more than two-thirds of all movies broadcast onEuropean channels. European films make up just under a third of moviesbroadcast” (Roxborough, 2017). At the times of Hollywood dominating Europeancinema not only in the actual cinemas, but also at people’s homes through theirtelevisions, it is really rare for a European film to gain internationalrecognition. And if one does that does not happen often. One of thoseexceptions is a twenty-first century star film Amélie (2001). “This film is part of an exceptionallysuccessful season of French comedies which have pushed domestic cinema’s shareof the market past Hollywood’s for the first time since 1986” (Vincendeau, Ginette, 2001).
This film wascommercially and critically successful and won many awards, such as nominationsfor the 2001 Academy Awards, four Cesar Awards, two BAFTA awards and theEuropean Film Awards. When it was realised, Amélie immediately captured the hearts of the world to the same extent that theartist did much later. The film and Audrey Tautou became instantlyrecognizable. Even today this film continues to have a huge following as thehighest-grossing French language film in the United States. So, what is so specialabout this film and why did it gain international recognition?Amélie is a French language romance comedy film from 2001 about a young womanstrangely enough called Amélie. The first and most important part, that makesthis film stand out and step by step led it to be internationally recognized isthe world of Amélie. She is a shy, Parisian waitress, who decides one day tosuddenly start to orchestrate the lives of the people around her.
Amélie’scharacter is so introverted, that she lives in her own world, where she doesnot really have a contact with the rest of the world. Instead of interactingwith other people she analysis and observes everything around her, which leadsher to a feeling of being out of touch with reality, but keep her really fascinatedwith the world around her, where she can find pleasures in the smallest things,like sinking her hand in grain. “Amélie is one of thosefilms that never stops reassuring the audience that it’s on their side, takingthem firmly by the hand and leading them” (Bonnaud, 2011) tothe world of hers. And it is so mesmerizing and unique, that it attracts eventhe dullest people. Amélie delivers merely a pleasurable fantasy of infantile satisfactions (Dudley, 2004,31). DirectorJean-Pierre Jeunet wrote the part of Amélie for a British actress Emily Watson,but apparently her French was not up to scratch and she had schedulingconflicts. So, the role ultimately went to the young and very lovely Audrey Tautou.Probably, many people could not even imagine this film without her in it now.
Thefilm is incredibly light and playful and the performance Audrey Tautou gives init complements the surroundings of the film and we get to know every nuance ofher character commonly told to us through an incredibly long narration sequencethat intermittently pops up throughout the film. Tautou runs with it with allsorts of playful glances of the camera and has subtle movements that spell outa whole load of emotion. This film needed a likeable actress for the audienceto really buy into the quirky world that Jean-Pierre Jeunet sets up and AudreyTautou passes with flying colours.AlongsideAmélie is a whole host of supporting characters that make up the microcosm thatis Montmartre.
And every one of them seems to have a slight personalitydisorder that this film only exaggerates for comic effect. We have a jealousex-boyfriend, who records all his ex’s movements on a little tape recorder. Andthen we have a tragic figure of the “glass man”, who never leaves his flat.Throughout the film Amélie sets about surreptitiously changing little detailsin their life that she thinks will make their life better. It is not so hard totell that this film is definitely on the whimsical side.Cinematographyand style- Camera workItis an incredibly stylish European film with some amazingly expressive cameraangles and movements. and also, a use of computer-generated imagery that couldbe said is incredibly endearing. It adds a cartoonish element to the film thatharks back to perhaps the early days of French silent cinema.
“Tautou’sface is colour graded, flattened, and often distorted by wide-anglecinematography” (Peters, 2011, 1042). The cinematography style, unusual camera anglesdirector used is to show Amelie’s secret inner world, the way she sees it andher strange quirky personality. By this, you can see how seriously she isseparated from the real world. The way she is not looking at everything as awhole, as usually protagonists do in Hollywood films, but noticing the smalldetails.
“The Surrealists,just like Amélie, used to scan the movie screen, hunting for details unseeneven by the director, exercising what Christian Keathley has dubbed “panoramicperception.”” (Dudley, 2004, 35) In addition, to understand why she is likethat we would need to look back at her childhood. Jean-Pierre Jeunet used manyclose-ups to make a point and let us notice things a viewer would not usuallysee.
For example, in the begging of the film, in Amelie’s childhood shots,close-ups were used, when showing girl’s aseptic father’s tight lips. The samecase is with her mother, when showing how nervous she is with a close-up of hernervous twitch. It all sums up to an understanding of why she became interestedin exploring the outside world, found herself imaginary friends and never wentto a real school, but taught by her mother at home.
Moreover, it is interestinghow the film it itself, it looks like a picture. Director framed the scenes ina way that they seemed like a photo album, which Amelie was looking at, showingher introverted and special way of looking into world.What is more, Jean-Pierre Jeunet Jean-Pierre Jeunet had an idea that “each shot must make its impact instantly. Thismeans there can be no extraneous action in the frame, no competing visualfeatures—”one idea per shot” being his motto” (Dudley, 2004, 41). To outline hisidea he used quite a lot of visual effects. For example,In the scene whereNino (her love interest) left her cafe and seemingly out of her life, it wasnot enough for Amelie to appear devastated. Amelie was shown to literallydissolve into a pool of discarded water.
Amelie melting in disappointment.To actually visually realise the metaphor of Amelie dissolving into a poolof water was a brilliant touch in providing us an insight into the eccentricyet intense nature of her emotions. Another great use of visual effects toactualise a metaphor was in the scene where Amelie solved the riddle of themystery man. We were shown the torn fragments of his photograph fitted togetherin order to form a picture of his complete face. A metaphor for Amelie puttingthe pieces of a puzzle together.
Solving the mystery ofthe man in the photos. Theme ofReflection:Besides using visualeffects to illustrate a metaphor, the director also employed the people, placesand props around her to embody a recurring theme of reflection. In the cafewhere she worked, we saw how Amelie was able to write on the glass in reverseso easily, reflecting her inverse outlook on life.Amelie deftly engaging in mirror writing.The introduction of Glassman served as a perfect reflection of Amelie’sinsecurities and inadequacies. A man with brittle bones who entombed himself inhis apartment, Glassman forced Amelie to confront the truth about herself.Being cooped up at home for much of her childhood, she was as socially awkwardas he was.
They both derived pleasure from observing the world around them fromthe safety of their own protected sanctums, Amelie from her inner world andGlassman from his apartment. Even their voyeuristic tendencies were portrayedsimilarly by their mutual use of spyglasses.Amelie and Glassman spying on each other.
Another prominent feature of the movie is the use of black and white videosto represent Amelie’s thoughts. These images are visualisations of how sheviews herself, reflections of her inner world. While the outside world iscolourful and vibrant, her inner world is in black and white, which reflectsthe past and how her childhood still has a strong hold on her. While she isdifferent from the people around her, she sees herself as special, rather thanan outcast. The Glassman forces her to acknowledge that she has not doneanything really special and she decides to find some meaning in her life. Sheturns to vigilante activities.
She begins seeing herself as an ally of justice.Black and white videosof Amelie’s thoughts Being aheroShe started by carryingout commendable actions – helping a man recover his childhood treasures andmemories, helping a blind man across the street – but her good deeds soondevolved into pranks, whereby she employed deception as a tool. She succumbedto the fallacy that the ends justify the means. She suffered from the hubris ofthinking that she could fix the cracks in other people’s lives. Some of herpranks were kind, such as Amelie forging a love letter to a heartbroken lady,and some not so kind, such as Amelie sabotaging the mean grocer’s apartment.Forging letter and spiking brandy.
Some of her pranks were pure mischief (sending her father’s garden gnomeround the world) and some were downright meddlesome (trying to matchmake twolonely people). These pranks show that Amelie had no real moral compass becauseshe had no qualms about misleading or deceiving others. This reflected herchildlike nature, whereby she did not understand the consequences of heractions.Kidnapping a gnome and playing matchmaker.However, pranks also led her to finding her soulmate. Nino was a guy asquirky as she was, someone who saw the world differently as well.
He lovedpuzzles, fitting the pieces together. So, in order to attract his attention,Amelie made herself into a puzzle for Nino to solve.Amelie meets Nino andbaits him.
Journey to Adulthood:However, like a child afraid of being rejected, shethought that she could spare herself pain by refusing to commit, by not puttingherself or her feelings on the line. But she would soon realise that the regretof letting slip a golden opportunity was no less difficult to endure than thepain of rejection. She learnt that the one’s whose life she needed to fix washer own. The heart she needed to heal was her own.
Understanding that happinessis something one should grasp with one’s own hands, she finally opened herheart and leapt into the great unknown.As the great playwright J. M. Barrie noted, “childrenare gay, innocent and heartless”. Opening her heart to pain and sorrow, butalso to love, Amelie’s attainment of a life with her beloved Nino is concreteproof that Amelie had reached emotional maturity.Importance of Mentors:The unique relation between people who were oncestrangers is amply illustrated here. As with Amelie’s chance encounter withNino, both united in their wacky pursuits, both going through unnecessarylengths to resolve vigilante causes (Amelie) or puzzles (Nino).
Or withAmelie’s growing affection for a formerly remote neighbour (Glassman), wherethey ended up developing a pseudo father-daughter relationship.As the Glassman nudged Amelie to take stock of heremotions and feelings for Nino, in our own life journeys, we cannot help butwish that – in our weakest moments or facing major milestones when we areuncertain or too cowardly to commit – someone would give us a gentle nudge or hardpush forward to help us along.Conclusion:The journey of childlike pranks and ideology endedwith the first blush of emotional and hormonal maturity. Towards the end of thefilm, we see a sentence from a little-read book scrawled on a public wall.
Theauthor of those words, a regular patron of Amelie’s cafe, was shaken out hisjaded despondency at the sight of a quote by an anonymous fan. The spring inhis step as he walked away was unmistakable. France as a romantic cityIn a sense, Amélie depends on themaniacal cataloguing of signifiers of a caricature France: Jeunet nails everylast one.”feature prominent use of totemic Parisian imagery tosituate their narratives, and invite us to travel to a “Paris” born ofcollective memory” (Van de Ven, 2010) Music„Most of Amélie’s shots aremarked with distinct beginning and ending points to allow neighbouring shots tocouple in a train of micro-occurrences. The soundtrack emphasizes this tactic,as virtually every scene and many individual shotsconclude with audible finality” (Dudley, 2004).
In what follows, I want tosuggest that the formal properties of the close-up embodied in Jeunet s filmshare something of the contradictions that lie at the heart of debates aroundnational identity in France at the start of the twenty-first century. Becauseit opens a critical distance between what it shows us and our abstractunderstanding of what we cannot see, while at the same time drawing us near inan appeal to the intimacy of our senses, the close-up holds in placesimultaneously the rational and the sentimental features of the French nationalideal. As Roland Barthes put it with regard to the face of Greta Garbo in afamous essay whose title inspires this one, the cultural force of the celebrityface shot in close-up derives from a structure both intellectual and affective,at once of the idea and of the bod