Generally, I avoid foreign language films. I find it difficult to focus both on the action of the film and the subtitles across the bottom. It requires more of a conscious effort to connect what I am reading to what I am seeing. Whereas, when I hear and understand what they are saying, the information sort of flows into my brain. Despite bad experiences in the past, I was pleasantly surprised by Ameile. It is almost impossible not to relate to at least one of the characters in the film. I especially identified with Améile Poulain (Audrey Tautou), the outcast, dreamer who wants to help people be happy. This week, Améile has become a favorite movie of mine–subtitles and all.
The film is the story of an outcast girl named Améile, whose mother died when she was very young and whose father was distant and detached. She grows up in a world of her own imagination, unable to connect with people. One day, she finds a tin box filled with children’s toys hidden behind her baseboard. She decides to return the toys to their original owner. When Améile finally tracks him down, he is inspired to reconnect with is daughter and grandson. She experiences a sense of fulfillment that she was able to help this man in some small way, so she decides to help all of the people around her. While she is helping everyone else, she eventually has to learn to help herself and allow herself to love before her heart becomes “dry and brittle.”
Améile combines many of the elements discussed in chapters 4-6 in our textbook. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet uses wide angle lenses to create a deep depth of field and keep everything in focus. It allows him to create a picture for the audience that showcases the amazing settings and characters in the film. He likes to move the camera a lot and do closeups of Améile’s face as well to create a lot of variety. We need to see time-lapse shots and even some (what I assume is) CGI animation when Améile’s bedroom lamp and pictures come to life. It is a film that has a bit of everything.
There are so many great design elements in Améile , but the most important is the decisive use of color. The film is almost entirely comprised of yellows, greens and reds with occasional pops of blues. Jeunet used a couple different techniques to bring these colors out even more, including colored light filters and Digital Intermediate (DI). These techniques give Améile a very unique style.
The use of DI to alter the colors of Paris end up giving it a softer, friendlier appearance. Everything in the film seems whimsical. It resembles a storybook, which is probably what it would feel like inside Améile’s mind. More importantly, the colors illuminated in the film are also the colors most often used in paintings. Jeunet does this in order to make each shot a unique picture. It also ties into the fact that Améile’s neighbor, Raymond Dufayel aka Glass Man (Serge Merlin), spends his days painting the exact same picture over and over again. He is never able to get the women with the glass just right. We later find out that this women in the painting is representative of Améile and her detachment from the world.
Perhaps the most evident color in Améile is red. We often see it framed by backgrounds of yellow and green. In the beginning of the film, the color immediately pops up as the mini-Améile eats red strawberries off of her fingers and says goodbye to the red, suicidal fish. Red is the color that Améile most often wears. It is also the color of her apartment. Red is intense and vibrant and stands out. It is fiery and passionate and bold. It represents Améile’s liveliness and bright imagination. At the same time, red is a bold color that highlights Améile’s lack of courage. Luckily, courage is something she learns. We see thing new bravery when she pulls her love, Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz), into her apartment and kisses him.
The use of green contributes a calming effect to the film. It really gives our eyes a break from all of the bright reds. Because it contrasts so nicely with red, it often forms a frame to different shots in the film. For example, when Améile and her mother say goodbye to the fish, they are framed by greenery. When Améile, dressed in red, is skipping stones, she stand out against a green background. Green is also the color of Améile’s pillows as she falls asleep thinking of Nino, and it is the color of the walls behind her as she looks through Nino’s picture book for the first time. It feels like a very hopeful color that brings a little relaxation to some of the scenes.
Yellow makes up a lot of the background color in Améile. It gives the entire movie a happy, soft glow. Many daytime scenes end up feeling warm and sunny. The yellow coloring also gives the film an old-fashioned, surreal feeling, which works in the wonderland that is Améile’s world.
The most scarcely used color throughout the film is blue, but when it is used it definitely stands out. It is very much the color of love in Améile. The first time it is really present is during the scene when Améile’s neighbor, Madeleine Wallace (Yolande Moreau), reads love letters from her husband. In the scene, she is surrounded by blue framing around the doorway. There is also a bright blue lamp burning while Améile constructs a fake letter for Madeleine. I think this highlights her mischievous love for helping people. Plus, Madeline collapses on her blue bed when she reads the fake letter. Later, blue continuously pops up around Nino and Améile. It is the color of the poster behind Nino when she first sees him. It is the color of the wall in the porn shop where he works. Nino is holding a blue bag when he chases after his mystery man and Améile follows. There is a blue stool in the photo booth that Améile uses. And most importantly, Améile uses blue arrows to lead Nino toward his missing photo book. I think blue really represents the happiness that Nino and Améile eventually get by coming together.