Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Having grown up with a cold mother and an emotionally absent father, Amélie, a young Parisian woman with a great capacity for love, has learned that it’s safer to keep to herself. She attempts to satisfy herself with life’s small pleasures (skipping stones, daydreaming), and she makes a good go of it, but she knows that she’s missing out on something. After finding a box of relics in her apartment, she decides to find its owner and return it; she decides that she will become a spectacular do-gooder, on the condition that the return of the box makes its owner happy. And in all her attempts to make people happy, the one person she has trouble with is herself.


1. What is your primary emotional response to the film? How do you feel for Amélie? 2. How did the filmmaker work to shape that response? How does he use color? How does he use splicing, camera movement? (You may want to note the director’s choice of the Renoir painting, as Renoir was considered the voyeur of painters.) 3. What mood does the introduction to the film create (are you being invited into a strictly realistic world, an imaginary world, a controlled world, etc.), and how does it control the way you view the rest of the film? 4. What role do small likes and dislikes play in our life? What is the importance of self-awareness in these areas? Do you know your spouse or loved one’s small likes and dislikes? How important is our view of the “mundane?” As a Christian, what are the consequences of our view of the ordinary? 5. What role does physical affection play in a child’s life? Emotional affection? What are the consequences in adolescence? Adulthood? Why, do you think, are children prone to ascribe guilt to themselves for things they’re not responsible for? 6. What role should imagination play in children? Is too little or too much a bad thing? How so or why not? Should children be encouraged or discouraged in this area? How so or why not? 7. What are the effects of social isolation on a person’s emotions, outlook on life, view of self? 8. What prompts Amélie to find the owner of the box? What prompts anyone to do good things for others, especially strangers? What kind of “power” does doing good for others give to us? What are some possible mixed motives for doing good for others? As a believer, what is your understanding of “good deeds” for strangers? What about good deeds done by unbelievers? What about your own good deeds: if God knows your motives (and if you agree that we’ll never have completely pure motives), why try to do anything good? Amélie decides that if the owner of the box is touched, she’ll be a regular do-gooder. Why does she put a condition on her giving? Do you agree with her condition? Does the condition lessen the act? In what other ways do people bargain with life? As a believer, in what ways do people bargain with God? Is this good, bad, a combination? How so or why not? 9. If, in the end, fighting the war against misery in the world is a losing fight, why even try? As a believer, how does this relate to the way we view the coming of the Kingdom? If Jesus is coming back anyway, why even try to improve things? 10. Along the way, Amélie, in order to make others happy, has to treat some people poorly. What was your reaction to that behavior? What does the filmmaker want you to think? How does he do it? Is it ever okay to do something bad for the sake of obtaining a good result? Does the good justify the bad? Do her “interventions” have a real, lasting effect, or are they momentary pleasures for her, or something else? Is it ever okay to manipulate people into joy? Why or why not? Depending on your response, as a believer, what does this reveal regarding your view of justice (what people deserve, what they get, etc.)? 11. Do you think that people are motivated by a fear of being forgotten? In what ways, or why not? 12. How does Amélie mask her fear of intimacy? In what ways do people do this? Why? What causes a fear of intimacy? What is the remedy? Why is Amélie unwilling, initially, to risk love? Why is love a risk? What is the remedy? 13. What part does mystery play in our affections for others? Depending on your answer, what does this reveal about your relationship with God? 14. Throughout the film, Amélie comes up with explanations for things to comfort herself. How do we do this in our own lives, and is it a good thing? What reasons might we have for doing this? 15. What are the good things about entering into Amélie’s life for two hours? About being engaged by the mystery, the joy, the romance in her life? What are the bad things? Should her sensibilities, her imagination, ideas of love and life, be normative?


Amelie credits: Cast: Audrey Tautou (Amélie Poulain) Mathieu Kassovitz (Nino Quincampoix) Rufus (Raphaël Poulain) Yolande Moreau (Madeleine Wells) Artus de Penguern (Hipolito) Urbain Cancelier (Collignon) Dominique Pinon (Joseph) Maurice Bénichou (Bretodeau) Claude Perron (Eva) Isabelle Nanty (Georgette) Claire Maurier (Suzanne) Clotilde Mollet (Gina) Serge Merlin (Raymond Dufayel) Jamel Debbouze (Lucien) Lorella Cravotta (Amandine Poulain) Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Screenwriters: Guillaume Laurant & Jean-Pierre Jeunet Producers: Jean-Marc Deschamps, Arne M. van Embden & Claudie Ossard Original Music: Yann Tiersen Cinematographer: Bruno Delbonnel Costumes: Madeline Fontaine, Emma Lebail Runtime: 122 minutes