Amélie Poulain

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Different films require different critical approaches. Choose a film or tv program and discuss the most rewarding critical theories and methods for a thorough understanding of its importance.

In the film Sense, Sergei Eisenstein speaks of how each shot within a sequence is like a line within a poem. In this particular situation, the poet would be Jaques Prevert, writer of the script for Les Enfants du Paradis and Quai Des Brumes. These films were part of the French Poetic movement which was important from the mid-1930s onwards when the larger studios such as Pathe and Gaumont lost their place in the market giving greater freedom to the smaller independent producers. Producers and directors were free to make their films and had access to the big studios and their facilities. As part of this, they were also able to use the cinema circuits for the projection of their pieces so that a new wider market was easier to access. Marcel Carne who worked with Jaques Prevert on films such as Les Enfants du Paradis and Quai des Brumes inspired Jean Pierre Jeunet for his own film. Whereas there was a movement of socio-realism this movement was based upon work within studios that attempted to recreate Paris. The characters within these pieces were normally male and facing problems. A lot of poetic symbolism was used, for example with the setting, gesture. Verbal and non-verbal actions as well as movements and lighting. This ties in with Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie because he is using elements within that style to demonstrate Amelie within a modern Paris. The setting being Montmartre and Audrey Tautou working within a studio for certain scenes whilst going out to the Des Deux Moulins for the scenes within the café. Amelie’s character itself goes away from the French poetic movement in that she is female and works to bring happiness to herself through good actions to others.

To some extent, the film would also be part of the art cinema. This is particularly visible through its being far more character-based. We are exposed to every character and certain scenes are designed away from the American studio’s way of creating characters. No character within the film is superficial. The way the film is constructed and sequences are done become more artistic but I will discuss this further when looking at the technology which was used for the post-production of this film. The new wave cinema which is aimed and created by younger people may also become important in analysing this film because of the subject matter which we see exposed through the use of characters and where they are age-wise within the film.

  Through the 3rd person omniscient narration we are taken into a world we have never experienced, structured as Milan Kundera novels and Jaques Prevert poems. Jaques Prevert wrote poetry, which spoke of simple things making transforming them into something else; he played with absurdity and with existentialism. Throughout the film we come to the problems of existence. As a person we must be happy with what we are doing and ourselves, make others appreciate what we do and have a lot of self respect and self confidence before even moving into a relationship.

This is very different from American films and their philosophy because whereas in America it is viewed that you must win someone else other rather than yourself. Amelie Poulain does actions that make her happy with whom she is and through doing things for others, not being egocentric she becomes a much stronger character within the plot. There is a message of self-acceptance rather than expecting others to accept you. Manon Des Sources and so many other films within Europe are as much about community as anything else, the community is important within Roberto Begnini’s La Vita e Bella, Chocolate develops a sense of community and its importance to a greater degree. If we were to take Bridget Jones’s character with that of Amelie Poulain most people would prefer Amelie because of her kind-hearted nature. Through her, we find out about the importance of our own place within society before that of within a single other person’s life.

Elements within the film could illustrate poems such as ?Le Cancre? where a student goes up to the board but rather than do the work he is meant to erases all that is bad and replaces that with

sur le tableau noir du malheur 
il dessine le visage du bonheur

Amelie is “Le Cancre” and becomes le Cancre whilst listening to news of Princess Diana’s death on France 2 whilst in the bathroom. At the same moment the ball, which serves as a top for a bottle falls to the ground and rolls towards a tile dislodging it and uncovering a secret box affecting the rest of the film. Within the film and the poem these occurrences help to demonstrate how personal happiness is attained through forgetting about things that make us unhappy, of wiping the slate clean in effect and starting anew. Her good actions are quite timid at the beginning and through times they become more important. Through the generosity of her actions she gains self-confidence and begins to think more about herself. This moves away from what we see in American films where the characters think only of themselves. Amelie’s character is far more complex because of the way she evolves throughout the film. It is through her actions to bring pleasure to others that she thinks more about herlself for the conclusion of the film.

Amelie’s behavior could be taken to be generous and charitable through actions she carries out. When she finds the box and returns it to his owner her charitable action moves her into wanting to do more charitable actions, thinking more about others than herself opening a way for critics to comment about its socialist nature at moments, working for the greater good of a community. At other moments such as in the street when she helps the blind man by accompanying him along and recounts what is around him this act of charity could be seized upon as an act of kindness and charity, something which Christianity would look kindly onto.

Whilst we have scene the strength of Amelie Poulain we may notice how it seems fascist because of the lack of any other ethnicity within the film, never do we see anyone other than white people in the film’s Paris. There is no mention of homo-sexuality, therefore, some critics may feel that it is a sign of fascist tendencies. From my personal point of view, I believe that adding certain groups of people would not contribute to the film, after all, it is the story of Amelie, not of the city. If Amelie does not experience these films then it is irrelevant to our understanding of the film.

In terms of audience and their look on le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain because it is based in France it shows a different culture, different locations and more. The location is one which so many Europeans know because they have travelled there. The world and culture within the film are typically French, rather for example than seeing everyone sitting at a pub drinking we have them in a café. Rather than people going to the super bowl we have them going to cathedrals etc. It allows the French to be voyeuristic about a world that they know and have experienced. The language itself is quite important for the audience, being given the precise time of day, the likes and dislikes of the characters etc. all help to give it cultural identity, the humor within the language is French.

The inter-textuality is quite important with this film, mentioning Diana’s death through France 2, showing Etoile Etoile, which is a program by Fred Mitterand, all help to make the audience feel it is something they know and live with each day. Jamel whom was on television plays a minor role without the director knowing how important he would become through other television programs.

Through having a smaller industry the structure is far better because Jean Pierre Jeunet did not need to speak to studio executives all the time to defend every small idea so it was far more creative from his point of view. Added to this is the fact that the technology allows for making the director’s role and that of the crew more varied. Technology was important whilst editing Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain because it required no negative cutting; instead everything was digitized and edited on a non-linear system. Through editing through this method he was able to play around far more with the structure of the film because of the amount of time saved during postproduction. Due to where he was editing he was able to participate far more in directing the special effects, for example with compositing certain shots like the speaking paintings, split screen photographs and the replacement of boring skies with more interesting skies. Through the advances in postproduction technology and it’s spreading the director’s role in France is not simply confined to directing the actors but to every single stage of production. The director in effect understands the whole process and through understanding the whole process can give far better directions to the crew whom is working for him. 

The way in which the audience and the industry have embraced Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie is quite important. With it being the most successful foreign film in America Canada and England it demonstrates its international values for the audience. The audience for this film is an international one. Apart from the audience appreciating the industry recognizes the film, winning the Goya for best foreign film, best foreign film for the Broadcast Film Critics association, prix du public at the Chicago film Festival, and many other awards show how important and influential this film has been. The music is iconic of the film as well, whenever the music is heard people instantly think of the film, giving the music’s creator fame.

In conlusion through studying the origins of the unique style of the film we begin to understand a lot more about the film, for example through knowing that he was inspired by Jaques Prevert makes a large difference as it helps to do more research on Jean Pierre Jeunet and the film genres he was inspired by. At the same time through studying the audience we have another incite to the film as a whole both from their reaction to it as well as from the type of film you would expect. It separates itself greatly from the American film industry for example. Finally understanding the language is a great help to understand what culture-inspired Jean Pierre Jeunet to create this type of character.


Online resources:

 Several critiques

Empire interview of Jean Pierre Jeunet

AV club bonus feature interview of Jean Pierre Jeunet

Yahoo information on Amelie Poulain

 Film le plus rentable Francais

Cinemas Suisse

 Critique du film

Amelie Poulain, english review

Costing information

strong and weak points, tf1

Lien francophones etc.

IMDB Jean Pierre Jeunet

Inspirations For Jeunet


Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts

  Video resources:

Le Fabuleux Destin D’Amelie Poulain dvd, with commentary over film by Jean Pierre Jeunet.