25 September 2011

The Greens and Reds of Mise-en-scene

Amelie is a cute, quirky, and original romantic comedy. Unlike most romantic comedies, this movie is, well...almost completely different. Amelie herself takes us through a fantastical journey into self-discovery and self-expression. Illuminated by the vibrant greens and reds, propelled by the personal news reports, and enhanced by the expressionistic elements, Amelie takes the audience through the fantastical and wonderful mind of Amelie herself.

Upon first encountering the film, something feels different but it is hard to put a finger on it. Every color seems to stand out vibrantly in every scene but in different ways. Suddenly it becomes obvious--every single scene purposely features red and green. Whether it is doors, like Amelie's own which is red on one side or green on the other, clothing, or lighting, red and green dominate the setting. In one scene, Amelie walks through the underground metro station and all the lights have a greenish tint. As a result, all the hallways, the walls, and the images appear green. This gives the movie a sort of surrealistic hue. It is as if the audience is peeking into some distant imaginary world, one not so different than the normal everyday but with bright, lush colors. The striking reds and greens puts the audience into Amelie's unique and creative mind to see her world as she does, not as they would.

Throughout the movie, the feeling of stepping into Amelie's mind continues as news reports about Amelie herself are featured. At first, most likely because the first news report is about Princess Di's death, it is easy to assume that the subsequent ones would be "real" news as well. But suddenly the TV, which is almost a character onto itself, starts talking about "Amelie." Strangely, the woman on the screen looks like Amelie, too. And rightly so as it is Amelie--the TV is narrating for the audience what Amelie is envisioning. She imagines that she becomes canonized in a way for her selfless giving to others but dies of a young age from exhaustion, perhaps as a true sacrifice. Later, Amelie's fears over her father's well-being are demonstrated in a news reel revealing his early death and the news-Amelie's deep regret for not being able to help him as she did so many others. Though out the film, Amelie sends custom news reel tapes to her neighbor "The Glass Man." The tapes continue to demonstrate the funny and unusual way that Amelie sees the world around her. By seeing the television images, the audience gets a further look into Amelie's mind and perspective.

The film as a whole relies on expressionistic elements of mise-en-scene to communicate Amelie's unique love experience. In many places, the things visible on the screen are not actually visible in "real life" but convey a deeper meaning. When Amelie slips a key in her pocket with a plan to do some mischief, the key is visible through her pocket. It is as if the key knows it will be used for trouble and glows conspicuously in her pocket. When Amelie sees her love interest, her heart is visible to him through her skin and clothing. It begins to beat faster, and not from her supposed but misdiagnosed heart condition. Everything from glowing x-ray vision given momentarily to the audience or characters, to the vibrant red and green lighting, and the apparently enlightened television invite the audience into the heart, mind, and world of Amelie.

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