Amelie, a 2001 French fantasy film directed by Jean Pierre-Jeunet, was recently shown in Connelly Center on Wednesday, September 11th. I heard about it in my French class and was especially interested because I was already familiar with the lead actress, Audrey Tautou from her outstanding role as Coco in Coco Before Chanel. Her consummate acting capabilities are shown through her various roles, serious and comedic, in movies such as A Very Long Engagement, Venus Beauty Institute, and The Da Vinci Code. Tautou is known for her distinctive, quirky features that are playful by nature.
Audrey Tautou mystifies and astounds her audience with a fantastic performance in Amélie, bewitching her viewers as Amélie, the sprite-like, overzealous protagonist who grows up with a highly apathetic and introverted father. Amélie develops imaginary characters and compatriots to compensate for the lack of affection she receives at home. When her frenzied mother commits suicide by jumping off the tower of Notre Dame, Amélie, already isolated, is left to drift through her imaginary world .
In the film, Amélie works as a waitress at Café des 2 Moulins in Montmartre where she lives in isolation. When she hears about Princess Diana’s death, she accidentally drops a bottle cap, which moves a tile and reveals an old box filled with keepsakes. She returns the box to the owner, and comes to the realization that she has an intense desire to make others happy, and accordingly follows that ambition throughout the movie… of course, in the whimsical Amélie way.
Amélie helps a blind man visualize and conceptualize his world by describing the city in abbreviated statements and leaving the man with scribbles for his startled mind to learn. She plays matchmaker for a hypochondriac and a customer, letting their earth-shattering love shake the café into delirium. She falls in love with a man named Nino, but forces him to wonder about her, to solve the puzzle of a mysterious love that can only be realized with a silent kiss.
In every aspect of the film, from the wide, high camera angles to the insertion of odd graphics and editing (and of course Audrey Tautou!), Amélie fosters hope and imagination and sheds light on hypocrisy. The movie really got me thinking that no matter how old you are, there’s nothing stopping you from being cognizant of the fact that you have an imagination that you can use in your understanding of the world. In her interactions with the blind man and her love interest, Amelie clearly shows that imagination is beyond limits. She just follows her own path and believes in what she’s doing. There is nothing stopping us from a treasure hunt, or a love that fills our hearts with what we really want, to find the owner of a lonely box, and to hide in coffee shops so the one you love does not find you until you find him first. Take it from Amélie–use your imagination and do whatever makes you happy.
By Saima Ahmad ’17