Arts and Culture

Revisiting Amélie after a Pandemic

The pandemic has led many people to question beliefs surrounding introversion. Some people ended up thriving in a socially limited environment, some are finding that re-entering into their “normal” social lives is overwhelming. Others coped with quarantine by viewing their condensed world through the “main-character” lens. Now approaching its 20-year anniversary, it is the perfect time to revisit the French cult classic, Amélie.

The film Amélie (of course) follows Amélie, a young 20-something living in an idealized version of Paris. The streets are always clean and every scene is saturated with green, yellow, and red. Amélie is, by all means of the word, an introvert. However, she is simultaneously incredibly proactive and curious.

The plot unfolds when Amélie finds a box full of childhood relics hidden in her apartment. She goes on an elaborate journey to return the box to its rightful owner, Dominique Bretodeau, without revealing her identity. After finding his box, Dominique sits down in a bar to absorb the intense emotions and the memories of his childhood that the box stirs up. Sitting next to him is Amélie, posing as a total stranger. She is listening to him. Dominique reveals to the bartender that he now has a different outlook on life and that he hasn’t spoken to his daughter in years. “It’s time I looked them up before I am in a box myself,” he says. Amélie’s signature smile says it all. 

From there, Amélie explores her new passion for bringing happiness into other’s lives, facilitating similar acts of kindness for others. Her kind escapades come easy to her at first, as she is meddling with lives outside her own. But then, one day Amélie’s love interest, Nino, drops a folder in the street. Amélie barely knows Nino, but she admires his curious nature- revealed by the contents of his folder. Nino collects lost photo booth images. Nino desperately wants his folder back and Amélie now has an excuse to see him but she is still terrified of confrontation, literally melting into a puddle after encountering him in one scene. In the end, however, Amélie re-directs her mission to bring kindness into others’ lives and (with some encouragement) takes ownership of her feelings towards Nino in her own peculiar style.

Amélie is a positive and often unseen representation of introverts- as she goes through character development never losing her shy nature. Introversion is not portrayed as something to overcome, but rather something to embrace. The film remains relatable to introverted viewers and entertaining to extroverted ones, maybe even relatable to everyone after a pandemic. 

Many young people today are familiar with the “main character complex,” the concept of seeing oneself as a lead in a fiction story. When quarantine hit, this main character concept, popularized by Tik-Tok, became a coping mechanism for many. Life was so mundane that sentimentalizing traditionally boring routines made life just a little bit easier. Amélie was, dare I say, the “blueprint” of this practice, the narrator of the movie saying, “She cultivates a taste for small pleasures. Dipping her hand into a sack of grain, cracking the creme-Brulee with a teaspoon, and skipping stones at St. Martin’s canal.” Amélie copes with life by creating an interesting world for herself, an overlooked skill that was brought to the mainstream during quarantine. 

Amélie is without a doubt a feel-good movie, but I have grown an even larger appreciation for the film after the past year. Amélie proves that a film can both make us feel good and give us meaningful insight into our lives. In his review, the late Roger Ebert said about the movie,  “​​It is so hard to make a nimble, charming comedy. So hard to get the tone right and find actors who embody charm instead of impersonating it. It takes so much confidence to dance on the tightrope of whimsy. ‘Amélie’ takes those chances and gets away with them.” If you have found yourself emerging from the pandemic with introverted tendencies or a main-character complex, do yourself a favor and give Amélie a watch.