Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Amelie

The character development and narrative of Amélie is structured through an elaborate rhythmic system of lists. The film opens with a narration that is declarative while demonstrating the cadence of a sporting announcement. Each line that is spoken to in the introduction sounds like a shopping list of things that happened on a particular day. The technique is so interesting because it allows the narrator to communicate to the audience who the character of Amélie is in terms of her background, what the setting of the film is, who the supporting cast of characters are and begins to build the viewer’s curiosity about what kind of journey this character will be taking in her life. In addition to the verbal lists that are established at the onset of the film, the director has beautifully crafted visual as well as audible lists for the viewer. Every frame of the film seems to have a strong base color of red or green and then subtle colors pop out in front of those colors, like a layered palette, forcing the viewer to take in each element of the scene individually. The importance of each visual element becomes apparent through this system. You see a scene flooded with every kind of green, from the water to the trees, to the bridge (almost like a Monet painting) and then, strongly sitting on the bridge in the foreground is Amélie skipping stones in her red dress. It’s a strongly composed image, but also quite compelling and focusing. To top off this already emotionally charged set up, the director added the list- like element of the sound. Each individual sound is layered upon the other, in the same way that the colors are revealed. In the scene where Amélie sees her love interest for the first time, you hear her footsteps approaching him, then you hear the action of what he is doing (scrapping under a photo booth), you hear the counter sound of her breath being taken away from her and then you hear her footsteps moving away into the distance with speed. The sounds remind me of how when you play a xylophone you bang onto each key and the let the sound resonate until a new key is hit. All of the individual notes are heard clearly, but the resonance and juxtaposition of the notes creates a song. The dialogue of the film continues in this list- like structure. When characters tell stories about their lives to each other, they list events and anecdotes but in a very rhythmic manner. Although the film does have a very strong narrative and progression, I am reminded of the reading that we did on experimental film and how a director can successfully evoke a mood or emotion by emphasizing a sound or rhythm via repetition. In the film, even the quirky book of photobooth pictures which are an obsessive collection act as a sort of list or compilation of items that serve as both an activity within the story as an extension of the love interest’s character. While Amélie is a love story and a personal journey, I feel that the reason that the story is so successful is that feelings of love, uncertainty and hope are established to the point that they resonate with the viewer. The movie ultimately becomes about representing a feeling. I find myself personally very connected to the film because I can relate to the protagonist. I am a list maker. I am sometimes looked at as neurotic and I think that I use lists as a tool to organize myself and shield myself from the unpredictability of life. I think that the story uses lists in a similar way. The parts of the film that slow down and are almost silent are the areas where Amélie truly develops as a character and the story moves forward. This is because it is a moment to breathe and let things happen as they are- with out manipulation or structuring systems. I guess that this balance between the “list-like” moments and breaths of air would be considered themes and variations. The end result is an intensely layered network of sounds, words, colors and textures.

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