Amélie is 2001 French & Germany made film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet who is the cowriter with Guillaume Laurant and starring Audrey Tautou. Nominated for five academic awards and Amélie won best film at the European Film Awards; it won four César Awards (including Best Film and Best Director), two BAFTA Awards (including Best Original Screenplay).
The original title is foreshadowing; “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain” which means “The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain" as it really is about fate and her surname is a symbolic one; Poulain is French for foal, a baby horse which reflects her standing in life.
Amélie is a story about a girl whose childhood was suppressed by her antisocial ex-Army doctor father’s mistaken diagnosis of heart defect. Like all little girls, she’d like to be hugged by her daddy but he never touches her, except for a monthly check-up. The thrill of this rare contact makes her heart beat like a drum. As a result, he thinks she has a heart defect. Amelie is then taught by her mother who is a schoolmistress and has always had shaky nerves. With these concerns she gets hardly any real life contact with other people and deprived of playmates, Amelie retreats into her own imagination, fantastical world and dreams of love and beauty and the situation became more intense with her mom’s sudden death. She later on becomes a young woman and moves to the central part of Paris, Montmartre, as a waitress. One day she discovered a lost treasure belonging to the former occupant of her apartment and at four o’clock in the morning she had a dazzling idea; she decided to find the owner of the box and if he was touched, she would become a regular do-gooder. After seeing his reaction and his newly found perspective, she decides to devote her life to the people around her. Such as her father, the woman abandoned by her husband, the man who is obsessed with his ex-girl friends, a hypochondriac, and the old man whose bones are as brittle as glass, the grocery boy, a failed writer and the love of her life. While trying hard to fix other people’s messy lives, Amelie, little by little with the help of Mr. Dufayel, discovers that she has to overcome her shyness and take a hold of her life to pursue her own happiness and then capture the beauty of love she has always dreamed of.
This is basically what happens but the real beauty lays in details which is another richness in narration since it matches with Amélie’s sense of taste; she likes to notice details that no one else sees. That is also why I chose a detailed way of analyzing. At the very beginning, we see a blue fly capable of flapping 70 beats a minute landed in Montmartre, at that moment, on a restaurant terrace nearby the wind magically made two glasses dance unseen on a tablecloth. Meanwhile, in his fifth-floor flat in Paris returning from his best friend’s funeral a man erased him from his address book and at the same moment, a sperm with one X chromosome belonging to Raphael Poulain made a dash for an egg in his wife Amandine. These opening scenes depict amusing coincidences. However, it turns out that coincidence does prove to be a so important factor in Amélie’s life that there can not be anything like coincidence and this perception is proven throughout the film by revealing the games and details… Then the movie goes on to show Amélie’s childish childhood games. She puts on cherry as an earring, she paints her chin a face etc… but there are two things that captured my attention; one is her hair style which has a soft looking of her later sharpened-striking hair style, indicating that she is the same Amélie but who is more innocent and naive due to her childhood and the second one is that she drops domino blocks which apparently again refers to coincidences in means of each life has a significant importance to the others.
After she decides that she will be the person to make people’s lives better, she meets her own guardian angel for the second time; the old blind man to whom she helps crossing the street. I said it was the second time since he was the man at the metro who was playing a gramophone record. The moment she bent to give some money to the blind man, her eyes met with Nino’s for the first time. And the lyrics of the song playing is very noteworthy; when I’m in your arms, I’m under your charm, how could I live without you?! Actually it was the song led her walk to for this side of the metro which is again a glimpse of coincidence games. The blind man shows up again on the news that Amélie created on her mind. She helps him once more by washing his feet. We come across him yet again while he leaves the café Amélie works in while she was away searching Dominique Bretodeau.
I have not seen any other film of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’ s but he is described as who always manages to make each film of his look distinctly unique and Amélie is one of them for sure. It is full of originality. He has a rather dark and twisted sense of humor. Here, Paris looks warm, beautiful, inviting, pleasant, and welcome, matching to Audrey Tautou though she has a non-traditionally beautiful beauty yet still elegant.
Mr. Dufayel is known as the glass man because he was born with bones as brittle as crystal. All his furniture is padded. He has stayed inside for twenty years. He has painted the same piece each year for twenty years since he, after all those years, still cannot capture the girl with the glass of water. While Amélie is taking care of other people, Mr. Dufayel observes her and they repeatedly discuss the meaning of this girl and it is never apparently said but she happens to represent Amélie and her isolated life. Through their discussions, Mr. Dufayel becomes her confidante and he makes Amélie examine her own life and her attraction to Nino. He becomes her confidant. He helps not just Amélie but also Lucien, the grocery boy. He is also an outcast and because Amélie assumes herself as the godmother of the outcasts, she takes him on her helping list. He takes painting classes from Mr. Dufayel after work and there is something interesting about him, too. He loves Lady Diana and talks about her all the time that the situation irritates Mr. Dufayel. His love for Lady Di matches with Lady Di’s standing in the society since she was known as “people’s princess”. This connotation appeals to our senses.
There is another detail I would like to point out; Amélie does change people’s life to some extent but not thoroughly. She just does a precious favor to them. She does not change their personalities or their manners but maybe she opens a new window for them. We can sense that it is true when we observe the lives of those she helped. Dominique Bretodeau is the best example to start with; after carving the legs and wings of the chicken, he loves picking the hot carcass with his fingers starting with the oysters and after being helped-changed by Amélie, he does not quit buying or loving to pick the hot carcass with his fingers but he starts to share it with his grandson. Another example is the sick-minded man who stalks his ex-girlfriends, with Amélie’s matchmaking he gains a new one but he continues to spy on his ex and new girlfriend.
Photographic style and magical realism draw the movie into its own little world and out of reality while having strong ties to real world. Camera angels and shots are used as complementary elements to the meaning. For example; Amélie was nervous and worried in the metro tunnels since she was not able to find Dominique Bretodeau. Dizzy and sudden moves of camera shots help to establish the inner feelings of hers (00:27:14). In addition, music is one of the great things about Amélie. The melody just fits into the theme. It features fantastic music, especially the piece played at the very end. They are all composed by Yann Tiersen; a French musician.
The end of the movie is ironically not an end but a start. It is a response to her goodness. One more excellent thing about the end is that it is one of the most sensual and erotic –not in a flashy and a cheap way - scenes without having any nudity or dialogue or even hardly any physical contact.
Finally, I would like to end my comments by pointing out some mistakes of the movie. Though there are mistakes, they are not recognized easily. I could not capture them by myself since they are not so distinct in the course of action but I found people who did;
Young Amelie is taking pictures with her camera. The only button on the camera is on the top right. However in the behind shot of her, the button is on the left. (00:07:17).
The film is set in 1997. There is a scene where Amelie knocks on a house door and in the background is a new model VW Beetle. These weren't available until early 1998. You can also see several scenes with various new models of Fiat Punto and VW Golf which weren't available until 1999. (00:20:07).
When Nino goes to 'Les deux Moulins' for the first time, we can see Amelie writing the menu on a glass right behind him. A few shots later, we see the glass again and the handwriting is quite different. That's easy to see if you look carefully at the 'd'. Later on, we see the glass once more, and the handwriting has changed again. (01:37:07).