The whimsicality of Amelie (2001)
An Amelie homage done by GuroLoli
I know Jeneut’s works since I watch clips of Delicatessen and A Very Long Engagement during Production Design Class,he seems to have a unique style of cinematography which blurred the idea between reality and fantasy. It’s fairytale-like yet it is grounded to reality itself. Perhaps the world known his true auter style when they showed Amelie in 2001,which he worked during his production with Alien. Here I am doing some quick analysis on how Jeneut convey that whimsicality in Amelie in terms of narration,cinematography and Production Design.
Play from 0.37-3.20 (Sorry I can’t find a better opening on Youtube)
The opening was almost fairy-tale like with the narration,when they narrates about Amelie’s birth. He seem to observe the little details on the day Amelie was born-like how the glass sway back and forth,an old friend canceling the details of a dead friend in his notebook for example. It was tinged in a yellowish tone to bring us the nostalgic and warm time. There we are shown the process of pregnancy and birth from the microscope footage of the fertilization and the time-lapse footage of the pregnancy and birth. The music was soft and calming as it remscience the days of silent film days.
Later we see the title sequence of Amelie,the main character as a child doing little activities to amuse herself whenever it was suck raspberries from her fingers to her mouth or pressing her face to the camera. It leads us to this child-like air to the film. It was time of simple pleasures like relishing your favourite milkshake or doing puppets from the mouth. Even the colouring of the shot adds that nostalgic feel with the cross-processed yellows and greens.
It carried out throughout the film that air of whimsicality by its clever usage of the narration like pointing out the obscure quirks of the parents like the parents’ OCD manner to organize their belongings in an orderly manner. Even the use of CGI (Computer Graphic Images) to illustrate her imagination coming alive to cope with her loneliness. There it applied that same colour palette that was established during the title sequence of the film.
Now fast-forward to the present day,we seen Amelie as a painfully shy waitress who worked in the cafe appreciating the simple things in life with that child-like energy. There it was cut in a fast-paced manner showing close-ups or L.S of Amelie-which highlights her joy in simple objects like “the sound of a cracked creme brulee with a teaspoon.” or sinking her hand to a bag of beans. To me it looks like Amelie have these pleasures to feel the sense of touch that she lacked as a child. That connection with people she lacked. Interestingly there is a snippet of Truffaut’s film-Jules Et Jim which they showed the couple kissing,however Amelie seems to be detached from the main moment and focused on the little details in the film like “The fly on the wall.” We still have the narrator telling us on Amelie’s experiences which added to that whimsical fairy-tale like atmosphere here. It even intrudes slightly to Amelie’s cheeky’s thoughts. It was frank but at the same time it have a sly sense of humor here.
Later on,we bring us to the inciting incident of Amelie’s realization to help people when she heard about the news of Princess Diana’s death. Some background on that part-Princess Diana was pretty well-known for her humanitarian projects and it was a shocker for England in regards of her death. Perhaps it gave her that realization,that there is more to life and the discovery of a tin box gave that catalyst that she could break out from her solitude. Again we seen the warm colours in her bedroom which represent the exuberance and passion for life. There her adventure starts.
I would like to highlight the painting that was covered in Amelie,to me it really helps in adding that meaning to the film. Luncheon of the Boating Party. by Pierre Augustine Renoir. For those who are on the err-side of Art History,he was one of these artists who are in group-The Impressionists. Well you know their goal is to depict life within an impression as due to the popularity of photography during the 19th century. What is interesting is how Amelie could relate herself to the lady who is drinking through the glass (I.E Ellen Andree). Is she thinking about the life she was living or being distant? I feel that it adds that whimsical factor to Amelie,just like Ellen-she was afraid to interact with people due to her deprival of her parents’ affection or perhaps she became wistful for the future that she may find someone to link with. Like the painting,it is up to our interpartion about how we view life-are we going to take pleasure in the simple things or complicate ourselves with too much chaos?
By the way,Jean Renoir was actually Pierre-Augustine Renoir’s son and he created the movement of French Poetic Realism which the critics at Cahiers et Cinema (Famous people are Truffaut and Jean Luc-Godard) raved about his works. Talk about complicated.
We are also given the male lead Nino,like Amelie is pretty quirky as he have an obsession of collecting discarded passport photos. His name is interesting because in Spanish-Nino means Young or Childlike. He have this similarity like Amelie,he is also painfully shy because of a bullying experience and he was ostracized for his quirky habits. We didn’t see him speak at times,which echoes Amelie’s nature. However in the end,when Amelie realized he is at the door,they did not speak at all. Therefore it adds a feeling of satisfaction that Amelie gets to meet Nino at all,despite her shyness.
To finish off that whimsical air in Amelie,there is a similarity of Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express where Amelie ‘raided’ the bully grocer is almost similar to Faye raiding Cop 633’s apartment.
It looks similar that the pixie-like leading ladies tried to come into a person’s household for personal reasons. For Chungking Express-Faye wanted to enter the house in order to cheer up 633’s broken heart to the point she emulates his former girlfriend. On the otherhand,it was almost heroic that Amelie wanted to teach the boss a lesson on bullying his colleauge,by playing some pranks on to the point of being cruel. That is why it added to that fairy-tale like charm.
In conclusion,I feel that the story have a sense of whimsicality by the use of the all-known narrator and simple plot. The characters could be appeared as one-dimessional like the bully boss or develops slowly like Nino. It was executed by the ‘cross-processed’ look that makes it nostalgic. Therefore you are transported to that world which everything is possible