(this review contains spoilers)
It is 18 June 2010, 13:59:35.
In this very second, somewhere, a fly reacts to something it sees and changes direction in 30 milliseconds.
A cat purrs at 26 cycles per second, the same as an idling diesel engine.
At least 100,000 different chemical reactions occur in your brain.
Every person has nearly 400,000 radioactive atoms disintegrating into other atoms in his or her body.
Between four and five people are born.
And other two people die.
Somebody is falling in love.
Someone else makes other person miserable.
And someone brings joy to the world.
Amelie Poulain is a waitress in Montmartre. She is 23 years old, lives alone with her cat and she visits her widowed father often. And that's her life – little, sheltered, ordinary. Except is any life ordinary?
One day, the day princess Diana dies, in the day of great sadness and tragedy, Amelie accidentally finds a box filled with childhood souvenirs of a little boy. In this one moment outside world ceases to exist for Amelie, all that matters is that box and Amelie's plan to bring it back to its owner.
When Amelie returns the box to the man, of course still remaining invisible, she is convinced that this is what she has to do. The man, Dominic Bretodeau, remembers everything when he opens that little box – his childhood, all the good and bad memories, which because of the time passing by now turned into nostalgia. All the years, all the moments hit him and convince him to live his life the best he can, as long as he is alive. In the ending scenes we see him reunited with his daughter and grandson. None of that would have happened if it wasn't for Amelie.
Amelie starts to have mission in life to fix other people's lives, to bring them joy – that inner need comes from the fact that her entire life Amelie was sheltered from closeness and happiness and what's even worse – by the people with good intentions. Her father never hugged her, they never traveled because they thought little girl has a heart condition. Her mother was a cold person who was home schooling Amelie. She didn't have any friends, so she created imaginary ones. And when she grows up she is alone, but not quite lonely – she has people around her, the ones to whom she will attempt to send joy – madame Suzanne who owns Deux Moulins where Amelie works, waitress Gina, her obsessive ex Joseph, Georgette, hypochondriac who works in the shop in the cafe, her neighbors and people living close to her.
And so, she continues her mission - she kidnaps her father garden gnome in attempt to make him want to travel and she leaves it with her stewardess friend, who takes pictures of the gnome in various places all over the world. It's not magic, it's a trick and Amelie knows that. But for her father it is something magical, inexplicable, fairytale-like. Amelie also decides to play a matchmaker and she tells Joseph and Georgette that they are interested in each other, although previous to her intervention they had no interest in dating. And so, love flourishes. Amelie steals her miserable neighbors' love letters and makes it seem like her dead husband loved her to the very end of his life. All of this is fake – there really is no traveling gnome, genuine love and affectionate love letter – but the people involved, precisely because unaware of Amelie's intervention, her good heart and great effort have the illusion of magic, love, happiness, relief – and so long as they won't find it's illusion it's very real to them. And it is making their lives better, joyful – it fills them with hope of more good things to come.
But the universe has it's plans for sweet Amelie, other than just making people happy. One day she spots weird man who is putting together torn pictures from under the machine on the railway station. At that point he is just some bizarre boy. But the next time she sees him, she figures that collecting those pieces is his hobby, that he is strange - just like her. Her heart starts beating faster, the connection is made. And without a reason, without hesitation when he starts running, Amelie runs too. The boy, Nino, loses his photo album and she decides to bring it to him. She is petrified of confronting her idealized dreams with reality, so she prolongs the moment of meeting as much as she can. And when it's finally there, she cannot display enough courage to go ahead and risk for real happiness. When Nino asks her if she is the girl from the photo, she denies and later on she dissolves into tears - she let her love, her own happiness pass by.
It is only because of her friendship with isolated mr Dufayel that she finally decides to give real life a chance. And she is finally happy, In Nino's arms living her dream.
"then i am in need
of your two interlocked arms
two rays of the universe"*
Her friendship with Mr Dufayel, who has a condition of very fragile bones and cannot leave his apartment, forms quickly. Dufayel copies „Le déjeuner des canotiers" by Renoir each year, each time changing something. The only person who truly intrigues him is the sad, distant girl in the center of the painting. She is a parallel to Amelie and shy girl refers to her when she is describing her own feeling to Dufayel. In exchange for their conversations and his encouragement Amelie makes him a videotape – she records various things, people singing, tour de France, babies, the things happening in the world – she does this because Dufayel never leaves his house, he is deprived of connection to other people. He watches them through his camera and he knows a lot about them, though. The only people who visit him are Amelie and Lucien, sweet but slightly slow boy, who works in the nearby grocery stand.
Amelie does bad things only to two people - the first is the man who tricked her into thinking her camera causes tragedies, when she was little - she punishes him by interrupting the transmission of a football game. The other one, as his crimes are bigger, is punished more greatly. It's Lucien's boss, who constantly makes fun of him and humiliates him. Amelie doesn't do real evil – just tricks – she mixes a lot of salt with his whiskey, she changes the placing of his tooth paste and foot cream, she cuts of his shoelaces. But in the end is all for good too – maybe after those cruel acts of “fate” this mean man will believe he is being punished and as the result he will be gentler to other people.
But the most elaborated act of kindness and bringing extraordinary to ordinary world is the quest Amelie prepares for Nino. She draws arrows in the park for him to follow, then she leaves his album there, she communicates through the photos and then she sets up a meeting. Nino, who didn't like other kids in his childhood and who has many weird hobbies could never find a girl who would understand, let alone love him. And now there is a woman not only not freaked out by his weird interests but the one who is bringing him so much joy. One of my favorite lines in this movie is when Nino asks the photograph (In the movie the surroundings of both Amelie and Nino talk to them – sign of great imagination of the two) if he knows Amelie. And the photo responds that he has always known her – in his dreams.
Love is everywhere in this movie, symbolized by red color – The dress Amelie is wearing when she meets Nino is red, the garden gnome's hat which she is holding when her heart stars beating faster, her umbrella, most of her apartment, the blouse she is wearing when she is reading love letters...the movie is filled with love – the love Madeleine has her for her dead husband, the lost love of madame Suzanne for the one who abandoned her, the obsessive love Jospeh has for Gina and Georgette, the love of Amelie's father for her dead mother – years after she is gone he is still building a tiny mausoleum for her, determined to make it perfect. Even a homeless man on the railway station is taking care of his dog with so much love and affection.
The color orange displays happiness and feeling of connection with another human being. The blind man glows orange, after Amelie helps him out, Nino's shirt, Amelie's fish, the inside of Deux Moulins are all orange.
Green is used for hope, as usual, It is seen mostly in the sequence where Amelie goes to amusement park and meets Nino dressed as a skeleton, Georgette is frequently wearing green blouses and Madeline uses green cloth to clean her husband's portrait. Hope for better things to come.
The magical atmosphere of the film is also emphasized by the plot involving bald man who takes pictures of himself on various railways stations. He is fascinating both to Nino who asks the question „who is that man?” in his album and by Amelie, who after discovering that the man is not a ghost, as she previously suspected but a simple handy man fixing the photo machine sends Nino there to meet him and gives him the most wonderful gift – an answer he was looking for.
The movie is beautiful not only because of the story but also because of extremely original cinematography – the colors previously mentioned are omnipresent, there are many cuts, interesting shots, artistic even, with so many curious and adorable details, colorful, full of life – everything is so complex and so meticulously set in the shots, the scenery of the film has the sense of magical chaos, the one you wanna be in, the one which holds treasures you could admire. The music composed by Yann Tiersen is cherished by many as one of the best soundtracks. The pieces are joyful, catchy and vigorous, the main theme for the film is unforgettable. „Amelie” and especially it's style is extremely influential – the show „Pushing Daisies” barrows a lot from it and I always suspected that David Fincher and Alexandre Desplat caught a lot of Amelie's magic dust during making „The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” - just take a look at the prologue and especially the story old man tells about lightning hitting him.
The movie's narration is unique – it is the movie about life and how every moment matters – therefore in the prologue and epilogue the narrator tells us little things, seemingly not important but in reality showing how everything is important, everything is connected, how each person has an influence on other person's life, for example - a girl decides to jump off the church, Amelie's mother dies. I always say that giving the audiance even the tiniest piece of information about character is the best and most clever device of creating a well developed characters, viewer can relate to. Here, we find out what are the character's likes and dislikes, their dreams, phobias, sorrows. Seemingly little, but not only does it give the director another reason to insert beautiful shots in the movie, it makes us know those people we are watching a little better, because we find out about personal things – things they probably never say out loud.
The cast is perfect, I never saw most of those actors prior to watching the film, but I suspect even if I did they would be characters for me, not actors playing characters – everyone fits the person they are portraying so well. Matthieu Kassovitz is great as adorable Nino and I cannot imagine anyone else playing Amelie than Audrey Tautou. I read the part was written originally for Emily Watson and as much as I like her it is a good thing Audrey got the part instead. She embodies Amelie – her big, beautiful eyes, her sweet face and her gentle smile and subtle voice. Her performance in this movie is very delicate but it will stay with you forever, she is essentially the most beautiful person – kind, sweet, caring. And Tautou shows all those traits without a single mistake.
There are not many movies I declare to be life-changing, but “Amelie” certainly is. Another life-changing movie is “fight Club” - but whereas its impact can be compared to getting shot or punched in the face, “Amelie” message is delivered with beauty, charm and grace. It leaves you with the wandering “if one person is able to bring so much happiness to the world, why aren't we all doing what she did?”. I truly believe that if you apply at least a little of Amelie in your own life, you're going to be a better person. That's not just a movie, - that's a phenomenon.
* Halina Poświatowska, excerpt from "bądź przy mnie blisko"
** you can also view the review here - http://www.lastfm.pl/user/lady_sati/journal/2010/06/18/3puo2j_%22amelie%22._the_review.