Amelie: Technical Considerations to help you appreciate the film
This resource is designed to be used with clips from the film Amelie, as part of an ‘Auteur Study’ of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, as well as his Hollywood foray, Alien Resurrection.
The techniques used by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and cinematographer Bruno Dubonnell are primarily used to create the tone and atmosphere appropriate to the genre of this film: a romantic comedy. The duality of the emotions required to create the desired effect in this genre (this means something that will be both funny and heart-warming) is also coupled with the individual creative vision of the director in shaping something that pushes the boundaries of traditional visual language.
Consider how each of the technical devices below assist in this creation.
Pseudo and real historical footage used in Amelie’s vision of herself as martyr. Solemn voiceover and added diegetic sound; old, public funeral footage (1900’s) are mixed with manipulated images of Amelie (scratched, black and white, sped-up, flickering images of her in a variety of situations) to place her at this time. Iconography of both Mother Theresa and Princess Di suggests the two dreams that Amelie has for herself: the “Queen of Hearts” and the selfless guardian angel. Along with the cast drawn Amelie’s real life - for hers is an associative vision drawn from the characters whom with she has interaction – these metaphorical images give the viewer an insight into the sort of emotional forces tugging at her. What is humorous is the imaginative absurdity of the montage of Amelie’s life (her looking after the blind man in the Alps) as well as Amelie’s tearful response to her own cinematic obituary. Sound and image are joined to mock the sort of solemn delivery of these sorts of television pieces. .
Other incidents that use this flashback technique of B + W footage also include her speculation on Nino’s disappearance. This montage is created from both old film footage (an absurd mix of Crash test dummy footage, Gangster film, Film Noir, Soviet Newsreel footage) is intercut with actual footage of Nino filmed to look like old newsreel clips. The opening sequence, although not B + W, has been technically manipulated to appear to be shot on 8 mm in “home movie" style – flickering images (enhanced by audio ‘tick-ticking’ of the end of the 8 mm roll), erratic lighting and colour consistency. The effect as the opening credits roll is that we are watching Amelie’s life as a child, full of typical childish things (find Jeunet quote on this), and yet always alone (again the echoing solo piano helps establish this endearing and melancholic tone in the film)
Film Speed Manipulation or ‘Ramping’ is used throughout the film, in conjunction with an array of sound effects (often drawn from railway stations/trains) to keep the pace of the film up, as we roar in on characters or objects. The pacing up also works to create a surreal and quirky feel to the film. For example when Amelie cuts the letters up in a blur of speed. This example could be read as time-compression device but is also the quirky manipulations of time that Jeunet likes experimenting with. Other examples of this in the film are the sped-up linking shots between Amelie visiting the various Bedoteaux (not Betodeau), again accompanied by racing car noise sound effects. There is also the use of slow motion to create little moments of tension, and even time lapse (Amelie’s birth, the seasons’ affect on the teddy bear in the garden) in keeping with the film’s pacing.
Camerawork Other camera work of note is the frenetic hand-held camerawork of the blind man’s journey, narrated by Amelie and carried along by Yann Tiersen’s ‘breathless’ accordion accompaniment. The pace is heightened by sharp jump-cutting and the camera being zoomed in to accentuate the jerky movement and characters'...
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