Amélie is a 2001 surrealist film directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet, featuring the charming Audrey Tatou. Award winning Mathieu Kossovitz plays the love interest of Amélie Poulin, Nino Quincampoix and Rufus is Raphael Poulin. Jeunet won the European Film Award of Best Director for this film. It was a huge commercial success, and loved by critics as well. The movie was nominated for many Academy Awards and received a 90% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.
The life of Amélie, a waitress (played by Tatou) is chronicled in a playful and poignant manner. Amélie Poulin grows up as a home schooled, lonely little girl. Her mother dies when she is six years old in a freak accident. A Canadian woman jumps to her death from the Notre Dame Cathedral and crushes Amélie’s mother. Her father, Raphael, an ex-Army doctor becomes withdrawn, leaving Amélie to her own devices. He never shows her any affection. As a comedic mistake, he believes that Amélie suffers from heart problems. The reality is that little Amélie’s heart speeds up during her medical examinations because that is the only time her father touches her.
The tone for the rest of the film is set. Amélie works at The Two Windmills café in Montmarte, the district of artists and eccentrics. The café is owned by a circus performer and its staffers and regulars are quite unique themselves. Though she is only 23 years old, Amélie has given up on love because of past disappointments. Simple things like dipping her hand in a sack of grains, cracking crème bruleé dessert with a teaspoon or skipping stones in a canal are enough for her.
A turning point in her life comes one day when she hears about Princess Diana’s death in the news on August 31, 1997. In shock, she drops a bottle cap which accidentally dislodges a kitchen tile. Behind the tile is a treasure box, full of the mementos of a young boy who had lived in her apartment decades earlier.
With the help of little clues and some investigation, she manages to return the box to the boy, now an old man estranged from his family. Seeing his tears of joy on finding the box and his determination to reconcile with his family, Amélie decides to become a guardian angel and do good deeds for others in her life. This leads to a series of sweet and often hilarious events involving her co-workers, neighbours and friends. The piece de resistance is when she tries to draw her father out of his shell by stealing his favourite garden gnome. She gives the gnome to an air hostess friend who clicks photos of it next to various world landmarks and sends these pictures to Raphael Poulin. Thinking that the gnome is trying to tell him something, Raphael decides to follow his dream of touring the world.
In the middle of this quest she falls in love with an adorable young man named Nino Quincampoix who collects proverbs and discarded photos from picture booths. Though charmed by him, she is too shy to approach him directly and plays hide and seek throughout Paris. It is only at the end that she gets enough courage to overcome her shyness. It is a happy ending when the two meet and begin a relationship.
The pleasure in watching the movie is not about a straightforward plot or suspense per se. It is about watching the little things that unfold with amazing realism, while managing to be funny at the same time. There is not a single part of the film wasted and this cinematic experience is both humourous and romantic.
The movie is in French but sub-titled in the English. Watching it in French without the sub-titles can add to the charm and experience.
Amélie’s soundtrack was composed by Yann Tiersen and nominated for the Academy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Soundtrack. The accordion and piano music for the film is very catchy, light and refreshing. It perfectly suits to the setting of the movie.
Beautiful camera work along with interesting use of both light and dark colours makes for a visual treat. According to an online poll conducted by the American Society of Cinematographers, “Amélie” is the best-shot film of the 10-year period from 1998 to 2008. Filmmakers have made use of CGI graphics and a digital intermediate in some scenes.
“Amélie” very effectively conveys the message that life, in spite of all its trials and travails should be lived light-heartedly and fully. It isIt is better to be a participant than an observer because many beautiful things that life has to offer may pass you by.
The film has had a widespread influence on many forms of art and cinema. The director of hit American show Pushing Daisies, Bryan Fuller acknowledges Amélie as his favorite film. He is quoted in The New York Times as having said – , “All the things I love are represented in that movie. It is a movie that will make me cry based on kindness as opposed to sadness.”
In all, Amélie gets four and half stars out of five. It is a film that should be on everyone’s must-watch list.
Akanksha Triguna Sharma
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