Case study: Amélie

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What triggers Amélie’s change in personality?

trigger – finding the secret casket (changing point in Amélie’s life):

  • action: (comedic aspect) narrator announces a live changing moment in Amélie‘s life after a TV host announces Lady Di‘ s death, she drops the glass ball coincidentally revealing the hidden room behind a loose wall tile
  • color palette: dominated by yellow tones (filters and grading)
  • acting: focus of attention lies on Amélie’s face, so acting is mainly done via facial expressions (noticeable storytelling device throughout the movie)

 

As she finds the casket she is curious what could be inside → neutral expression

Once she opens it she knows that she found a time capsule and is fascinated → smiles

The viewer still has no information why she smiles → cut to a p.o.v. shot of Amélie revealing contents of the casket (viewer is treated like an observer, information is revealed piece by piece)

 

making a life changing decision and its consequences:

  • action: Amélie decides to find the owner of the hidden casket and if he‘s happy about getting back a relic of his childhood, Amélie will start to interfere in others’ lives.
  • acting: no emotions, completely neutral, no physical motion
  • emotions are conveyed through camera movement, music and voice over narration (contrast to prev. scene)
  • color palette: a strong saturated red is added to the color palette from the previous shot, palette changes in color are often linked to significant changes in the narrative
  • camera: perfectly smooth dolly in (+ roll axis) representing dreamy and a fate driven decision of changing her life

 

We go from a medium (long) shot to a close up of Amélie‘s face → used in multiple occasions to go from a shot including the beautifully designed environment to a close up to emphasize little nuances in facial expressions.

wide angle lenses exaggerate this movement in z space even more and the distortive properties of wide angle lenses are often used in close ups → Amélie‘s world and its character look artificial and quirky (which fits the theme of the imperfect world & characters with their own weaknesses)

 

the helper syndrome:

  • action: Dominique Bretodeau finds the casket in the telephone cabin and is moved to tears → why? Each item is a reminder of a situation of his childhood (black and white flashback → color shows different time period)
  • color palette: from brown / neutral to a greenish shot of an euphoric Amélie
  • camera: slow motion „bullet time“ shot around Amélie → Amélie Is overwhelmed by positivity illustrated by narration and emphasized by temporal discontinuity
  • world is now described as perfect and happy for the first time → Amélie is actively enjoying her life
  • Dutch angle shows that things are out of their normal order (see tilted horizon line → in obvious contrast to the precise and “mechanical” dolly in to close up shots)

Amélie has successfully broken the chains of isolation that dominated her childhood. She made the decision that her life has to change and found motivation to change the world by seeing what giving back memories (the casket) can mean to a single person. We now see a different Amélie that is not driven by shyness and passivity anymore. As outlined before different camera techniques (like the slow motion shot just shown) support this development of Amélie as a person.

 

How does Amélie influence the world around her?

making her surrounding happier by helping and fighting against negativity:

helping:

  • she takes the blind man by the hand and guides him through the streets explaining what sighted people would sense, essentially giving him the ability to see
  • fast talking, fast movement and hand-held footage to underline the chaos of many visual information hitting a blind person nearly at once
  • most of the film is shot very stable and static with smooth and planned camera movement (creates a big contrast to handheld scenes)

 

fighting:

  • Amélie dislikes Collignon behavior of constantly bulling his assistant and decides to play tricks on him as a revenge for Lucien → expressed by different facial expression for Collignon and Lucien (a smile for the quirky Lucien, a neutral / bad look for Collignon)
    • Relationships of characters are easy to identify through clear facial expressions
  • unbalanced composition and isolation by the color of her dress (comparison to shutter island?) → Amélie opposes the rude behavior against Lucien
  • Amélie dressing as Zorro taking revenge for the weak and powerless

 

 

What is the status quo?

Amélie is affecting a lot of different characters (nearly her entire surrounding). There is not much left from her previous life, only her desire to do things in her unconventional, special way.

Nearly every other character of the film is now being controlled by Amélie’s behavior. However, in this act of the film her surrounding does not push her down anymore (c.f. her childhood and parents), since she has taken the lead. You could argue that we are stuck in a situation where the internal development of Amélie is suspended because of her desire to improve the world and her being not brave enough to face her inner feelings.

She definitely improves the world around her. But one character, who is also a “victim” of Amélie’s do-good attitude, Mr. Dufayel, is one of the few persons to realize Amélie’s deepest problems. He is the main character having significant impact on Amélie herself by steering her in the right direction.

 

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