Thursday, January 8, 2009

Amélie and Philosophy, 1

Not terribly long ago a director made a movie where every shot is comparable to a painting--and a beautiful one at that.

It was a film where everything, from the movement of the camera and the music played to the set design and the use of specific colors, was integrated together in order to tell a story consistently well.

That story is a good one. The director is Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The film? Amélie.

The characters in Amélie are driven by deeply personal (often interesting) values. These values are what distinguishes one person from the next. And more, they are shown in such a way that one can easily see the relationship between the attainment of them and their happiness.

Amélie is shown pursuing all the little things she loves just as we see the others in the story doing (on a less in-depth scale).

She enjoys, for instance, skipping rocks in an especially beautiful spot, cracking creme brulee with a teaspoon, guessing how many people in the city below her are having orgasms at any one point in time, and dipping her hands into sacks of grain at the market.

These pleasures, especially rock-skipping, are shown to be taken seriously. It is not just that she likes doing so when or if the opportunity arises. Throughout the movie, we see her consciously thinking about and picking up special rocks for that purpose. And we can guess the extent of happiness she gets from this activity by her conscious, consistent focus on it.

However much Amélie likes doing these activities, the specific driver of the events for most of the movie is her decision to "fix other people's lives and perhaps her own as well."

We see Amélie playing matchmaker to two of the locals in her restaurant and giving a blind person an exhilarating walk that (to the extent possible) permits him to see the street (through her richly told descriptions) for one glorious moment.

We see her video-taping certain moments on television in order to show a neighbor who hasn't left his house in years some of the interesting things that he could see if he went out.

And, in some of the funnier scenes, we see her switching foot cream for toothpaste, setting an alarm for the middle of the night, and so on, in the cruel, local grocer's house.

In each of the above (and many others besides) Amélie's pleasure is clearly visable. So why, towards the end of the movie, is Amélie in tears? What is it that she is missing? (Read on.)


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  2. I thought the movie was delightful, and I agree with your identification of the theme as the need to face reality in order to achieve happiness. Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Glad you liked it! Jeunet has another film, called A Very Long Engagement, that is well worth checking out too.

  4. well I guess she misses the bigger picture... she is fixed on the small stuff and has no access to the universe as a whole - of course it is good and one should find pleasure in he little things - but one also has to be connected to the universe and have it within....