Film Fest 6: 'Amélie' (2001)
By: Tessa Lillis
Whenever someone asks me to name my absolute, number one favourite film, I usually take a deep sigh and explain how difficult it is to make that decision. I then continue naming about ten films that resonate with me at the moment, another few films that made a deep impact on me in general, and I tell these people that they dug themselves into this hole and they only have themselves to blame.
That being said, I have noticed that whenever I go off on these little tangents, there is consistently one film that comes to mind; one film that has a permanent spot on this mental list of mine. No matter what season it is, or what mood I’m in, or where I am in my life, there will always be Le Fabeleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, or, as it is commonly known, Amélie.
The summer before my fifth year of elementary school, my family and I took a trip to France. While I was only ten years old or so, my older sister Mia was about fifteen and was thus much better versed in films. She had one condition while we were taking this trip: that my mother take her to see The Two Windmills café in Montmartre, as it plays such a huge part in a film she thoroughly enjoyed called Amélie. The sheer importance of this visit engrained the film into my memory and, years later, I finally watched it. Thank goodness I did!
The film revolves around the life of a young woman, Amélie, who works as a waitress in this little café after deciding to leave home. One day she discovers a tin box full of forgotten mementos and decides “she would find the box’s owner and give him back his treasure. If he was touched, she would become a regular do-gooder. If not, too bad”. Having returned the box, she realizes a new vocation in life: to help others find happiness or even love.
The plot itself is absolutely touching. The fact that she is devoting her life to helping others find joy is beautiful, and it is even more beautiful when she realizes she needs to help herself find joy as well. A film needs more than a captivating plot to be considered one of the best, though. A film needs phenomenal cinematography, ideal acting, a perfectly synchronized soundtrack, and the list goes on.
Firstly, let me delve into the unique and whimsical visual style of the film. The colour palette is immediately recognizable, splashing the setting with tinted greens and reds, bright lights while nearly omitting blues and shadows. This adds such a sense of warmth and comfort to the entirety of the film. I also absolutely love the use of art, including Magritte-like paintings by Michael Sowa, and photography. You never would have realized the importance of a photo booth until after you see this film. The shots usually used wide lenses enabling the camera to capture and the audience to glimpse into the beautiful world of Montmartre and the surrounding spots in Paris. These spots are captured with such sincerity and magic that you can’t help but want to visit yourself (perhaps Amélie should be used as a tourism advertisement).
Don’t even get me started on the perfectly executed acting from both of the protagonists. It still amazes me that this was Audrey Tautou’s first major film, and I can’t even imagine someone else being Amélie. She naturally brings this childlike quality that contrasts so well with the maturity of the character, showing the audience what it’s like to be in this dream world that she’s created for herself. When Nino, played by Mathieu Kassovitz, enters into this world of hers, we are able to see the immediate chemistry between the two. The fact that this film not only has phenomenal acting from the two main protagonists, but also from all surrounding characters, shows the pure quality of Amélie.
AND THE SOUNDTRACK. I’m blasting it right now as I write this. It’s pretty much completely piano or accordion driven with songs by Fréhel or Al Bowlly thrown in. Yann Tiersen did such an amazing job composing the soundtrack, as it perfectly matches every single aspect of the film. Amélie wouldn’t be the film it is without that soundtrack.
I think this goes without saying, but I can’t recommend this film enough. Want something funny? Check. Want something deep and symbolic? Check. Want something that will make your day better no matter what? A big check. Go and watch it immediately, and try to find beauty in your life like Amélie did.