Amélie (2001)

Written by Agne ☽


I’ve just had one of those lovely, lonely evenings and watched one of my most beloved films, Amélie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It has inspired me to write on why this film is surely a must-see at least once in your life. I’m not a movie critic so I won’t go into detail about the specific details of cinematography, evaluate the plot nor consider deep thematic issues  – I just want to express how I feel every time after I watch it. I am not describing any plot details either, so it’s safe to read if you have been meaning to watch it. And you absolutely should, by the way.

The film is very, very French. Some people may find the plot boring and leading nowhere. For me, it’s a unique, magical and charming story about the life of a dreamer. Although it is put under the category of a romantic comedy, I can’t really agree with that. I would call it a romantic, comic fantasy. And a drama at the same time, because it makes me cry every time.

It is not at all a sad story, though. The film is essentially about a painfully shy, introverted young woman who was loved too little and had no friends as a child, who never knew real happiness nor desired for something more than she had. In this sense, Amélie is depicted as pure and untouched – she lives in her own poetic and quirky world. She coincidentally discovers the happiness that little things can bring to other people and that encourages her to be brave. Brave for others, but not for herself.

The film depicts her coming into the realisation that faith and coincidences have limits – especially when it comes to YOUR happiness. Similarly important, it suggests that as much as making others happy may bring you joy, you can’t be truly fulfilled by that. You can’t live a happy life ONLY through the happiness of others, although that is, in a sense, an easier option.

As I said, I see it as a perfect representation of the world in the eyes of the dreamer. Naturally, Paris, where the action takes place, is portrayed in an unreal and magical manner. The representation of Paris in the film sparked some heated controversy – I am not going into detail on that, as I believe to understand the motives for such decision of the creators. Amélie shows a closed reality of a young woman in Paris, and the representation of Paris in the film is therefore, in my opinion, purely aesthetical. It is a dream-like version of Paris – a perfectly clean, orderly place with no social problems. As such, it’s a colourful city with too many corner cafés and amazing music playing out of somewhere. It is far away from daily French reality, but I appreciate this image, as it is, like I mentioned, non-central to the storyline. It does, however, evoke this feeling of nostalgia for something, and I don’t exactly know what for. Not the past or some other version of the city though, because as much as I love Paris, I don’t believe that it ever was the way it is depicted in the film.

The overly saturated colours, the amazing soundtrack, some crazy camera stunts, and the beautiful Audrey Tautou – everything makes a perfect sense in this film. The way that the viewers are “made” to get to know the characters by providing them with information on what they “like” and “dislike” makes their eccentric features very familiar and touching. The rather absurd situations that you just know would never happen in real life are so special and unique that you don’t even care why and how any of that would ever come to be. Even the (stereotypically) very French sex scenes that are not really related to the plot are “normalized” – some of them were depicted very graphically, yet comically, so I didn’t mind their (un)usefulness.

Essentially, Amélie falls in love and that evokes her personal growth, which is represented in a very different kind of way. I know it tells very little, but I can’t find the right word for it. In a way, the film gives some hope to all the dreamers out there. It encourages you to enjoy small pleasures of life, yet reminds you how important is not to get too lost in your own world. The acts of kindness in the film make you want to do good to others and appreciate the littlest of things. It brings up unique messages connected to courage, confidence, faith, coincidences, and love. 

All in all, this aesthetic masterpiece gives me the feeling that life can be something more, something unknown, yet also reminds me of its’ essential simplicity. It makes me remember that it is where the beauty lies – in exploring the secrets of little things in your beautiful, and sometimes, simply difficult life. Amélie makes me believe in coincidences and fate while at the same time showing the limitations of those magical things at some points of one’s life.

“We pass the time of day to forget how time passes.”

I love watching Amélie at least once in half a year, or anytime when I feel utterly lonely and lost. Not alone-lonely, but just misunderstood. And not necessarily by others, but mostly by myself. When I can’t longer find at least some kind of joy in small, daily things.

I wouldn’t consider myself a romantic, but this movie just makes me so weirdly happy-sad – after watching it countless times, I still don’t know exactly why that is. It leaves me longing for something. It evokes the melancholic and nostalgic feelings that bring me back to the basics of life – it also somehow makes everything clear for me at least for a small period of time.

“Your bones aren’t made of glass, you can take life’s knocks.”

I hope that this “review”/my rambling made you feel like watching this film some time. I can’t promise that you will love it, but I don’t think someone can regret watching it for numerous reasons (please read the reviews by serious people).

Take care.

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