Garden Gnomes, Hypochondriacs and the Deeper Meaning behind Amelie

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Hello there! It’s my very first blog on here which I’m quite excited about, been meaning to get this up here for a long time after having my first year of uni to get out of the way! I’ve decided to give a bit of variety to what I’ll be writing about, ranging from literature, film and of course art which I’ve dabbled in all three of. I have to warn you now however, if given the chance on paper I could ramble for days on end, I’ll try my best to shorten this for everyone’s sake though!

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Leading on from this little note, I’d like to begin my first ever blog about a certain film that really spoke to me during my studies in college, that film being Amelie (2001) by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. If you haven’t seen it yet I’m urging you to please watch it, it’s an experience to say the least if you’re looking for something a bit different. What particularly got me about this film is that it displays the subject of what it is to have that sense of ‘otherness’ in a completely different light to anything else I’ve ever seen before, every character in it is slightly bizarre and has their own quirks. However it’s not so much the differences that ring true but the character of Amelie herself, played by French actress Audrey Tautou, who is the main attraction. It’s very rare to see a shy yet slightly odd protagonist in any form of literature or film as they’re often displayed as rather dull or plain because they don’t possess the slightly brash or ‘in your face’ attitude of many others. Yet in the film we’re enveloped into Amelie’s wild imagination which is vast and very bizarre, proving that there are people in the world whom you need to peel back the exterior and take a closer look at. However it’s Amelie’s out of control imagination that in turn, completely isolates her from the real world, even when she meets someone who is potentially the love of her life, she runs away and hides, terrified that her expectations will not live up to reality. It is this unusual opposition from a ‘carpe diem’ attitude that is usually applied to fantastical love stories that I find truly brilliant.

Amelie is packed full of unusual characters, from the psychopathic stalker Joseph, played by one of Jeunet’s favourite actors Dominique Pinon (if you thought Jim Carey had an animated face, you need to see this guy in action) to the hypochondriac waitress Georgette played by Isabelle Nanty. There is a crazy character at every turn and an unsuspected star in a garden gnome who travels the world, sending pictures back of himself to Amelie’s father who is naturally amazed by them. The gnome himself, I believe, becomes symbolic of Amelie’s father, a simple man too afraid to live the life he wanted. It is through this little gnome that he sees the places he wished to visit himself, another good deed from his daughter who does not feel the need to be acknowledged for the trouble gone through to make this unusual act a source of happiness to him.

However it’s not just the strange characters that make this film so intriguing, it is also the artistic way in which Jeunet uses colour to convey a fairytale like version of Paris which has become a sort of trademark of his in his body of work. Montmartre where the majority of the film is set, is also the home of Jeunet, showing that he has taken a place he knows so well and turned it into something else entirely. This being the first film Jeunet had complete artistic control over, the colours he uses (primarily green and red) connote that Amelie sees the world as she wishes to see it through the eyes of a child, the colour green connoting feelings such as jealousy and envy I believe display the uncertainty of her emotions and longing she feels to join the real world and be with the man she’s become infatuated with (Nino). Whereas the colour red possesses connotations of feelings such as love and passion, it is also a colour synonymous with fairytales downfalls, Snow White’s red apple which poisons her, Little Red Riding Hood who is eaten by the wolf, very interesting in its own right. Jeunet being an auteur this makes his films very interesting to watch as in previous works with ex co-director Marc Caro he plays with sepia tones which give his fantasy worlds a very nostalgic overtone. Having recently visited Paris myself, I can further understand how Jeunet found so much inspiration from the lovely Parisian people and local places he had to play with to make the film truly magical.

Art itself is embraced fully in the film through the man with ‘bones made of glass’ (a condition similar to that of Samuel L. Jackson in the 2000 film Unbreakable), Raymond Dufayel, who does nothing but repaint Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party in his apartment day after day, unable to venture into the outside world. It is through painters such as Renoir that Dufayel sees the true beauty in the world as he constantly praises Renoir’s eye for detail and ability to capture this beautiful place of meeting. Dufayel links Amelie directly to the painting in their last discussion, wondering whether the woman (I believe to be the one in the white blouse in the centre) loves the gentleman she is staring at (the one to the right wearing the cream jacket). This being as she does not approach the man, yet stares at him from afar as he attempts to charm another woman. The painting itself shows many displays of diverted attentions as you can see, as at least one subject is looking away from each situation. The most intriguing of these I’ve found is the woman to the far right with her hands over her ears as she is the only one sharing eye contact with another person, the ear covering still being a symbol that she is trying to take herself away from the situation. It is diverted attentions that are at the heart of Amelie as she tries to tell the man she loves that she cares without confronting him about it, the risk being that his heart will belong to another.


I believe that this film is universal in the sense that there’s always a part of us that wishes we could run away from difficult decisions and hide inside our daydreams. There is always that sense of fearing things that could be rather than to see what blindingly wandering into the unknown will bring us. We all know that real life is much more difficult than depicted in Hollywood films and fairytales. In real life there are no fairytale like romances contrary to all of those Disney films we all watched as children, there is only the fact of living each day as it comes and whatever is meant to be, will be. Like the film, the idea of venturing into the unknown and taking big steps out of our comfort zone is terrifying for many of us and I think Amelie is such a perfect character to display the extremity of this. What the film ultimately tells us is the importance of understanding others and not letting an opportunity pass by no matter how big the leap of faith may be. It is the unusual that we must surround ourselves with and the difference in everyone around us that we need to acknowledge and embrace.

Anyway, that’s enough for my first blog! Hope to be posting again shortly :)

 -Nicola Borrows

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2 Responses

  1. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wished to
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    • nikki.borrows says:

      Thank you very much, my own little blog will be up pretty soon and I have a new one that I’ve already written, I’m in the process of writing a third as well so I hope you continue to enjoy them :)