“So, my little Amélie, your bones aren’t made of glass. You can take life’s knocks. If you let this chance go by, eventually, your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton. So, go ahead, dammit!”
A powerful leading lady can be transformative for her audience. In my experience, the feminine journey, when told by an authentic voice, can make a film, novel, poem, or painting just a reimagining of my own story.
One such female lead is Amélie Poulain. In The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001), Amélie, a quiet and charming waitress, discovered a small box of keepsakes left by a young boy that used to live in her flat. When she tracked the owner down to return his box, the effects were life-changing; for the young boy who she met as an older man, it was a reminder to live his life and reconnect with his daughter, for Amelie, the event completely altered her life path:
“Amélie has a strange feeling of absolute harmony. It’s a perfect moment. Soft light, a scent in the air, the quiet murmur of the city. She breathes deeply. Life is simple and clear. A surge of love, an urge to help mankind comes over her.”
It’s been about ten years since I’ve seen the film, but I still reflect on all the reasons I love Amélie. Here are some of the reasons at the top of my list:
Amelie was the ultimate gift giver
Because she didn’t give gifts….she returned things…completed things. Her gifts inspired her father to travel the world, a war widow to gain closure, a blind man to see, two lonely hearts to find love, and a young man to find contentment at work. Her gifts were a message—a challenge to live life.
Crazy, Creative, or both?
Amélie was definitely an agent of change in the lives so many and her extraordinary imagination coupled with her ability to truly see people was the root of her effectiveness and often changed the life path of people she loved for the better, but Amélie did not always use her powers for good. Let’s not forget that she broke into Collignon’s house, messed with his clock, doorknob, and house slippers, that’s called breaking and entering. Or that when she was a little rugrat and wanted to get back at a neighbor for tricking her, she waited for the football game that he had been looking forward to and disconnected his cable at the most exciting times of the game. The girl is crafty and if you cross her, she’ll go for the jugular.
She appreciated the beauty in the world.
She was not one of those self-involved, neurotic female protagonists that we’re used to and the nuance of the imaginative world never disconnected her from the reality. Her isolated childhood inspired an incredible romance— Amélie saw the beauty in the world. Inquisitive, thoughtful, observant…she noticed what most people did not and it was the root of what made her such a compelling character.
Her love story forced her to face her fear
Perhaps what makes this story so provocative is that the main character’s greatest strength was also her greatest weakness. Amelie had an incredible and unique imagination but she used her imagination to avoid reality:
“A normal girl would risk calling him straight away. She would give him a rendez-vous at a café to give him his album back and in a few minutes, she would know if it is worth going on dreaming or not. This is called facing reality. And that is exactly the last thing Amelie wants!”
Every act and turn of her story prepared her for falling in love and that is precisely what speaks to so many people.
Here are some links to great blog posts / essays on The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain: