Friday, October 15, 2010

Discussion of Film shots in "Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain"

Film: Amelie directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

    Amelie, a French film, uses all three shots sequentially in most scenes in the film in which new information is introduced.  The film director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet filmed Amelie in a style to emphasize human connection and understanding of the characters. The progression in most scenes is from Close up--> Medium Shot--> Long shot. Not the other way around.  This immediately establishes a close connection with the character or setting, even if we are not sure exactly who the character is yet. This ties back to one of the themes of the film which is self discovery and understanding the quirks of human nature.

1.  Close Up: One of the very first shots of the film is a hand with a face drawn on it. It is shown during the beginning credits, moving the fingers so that the hand is "talking". It immediately gives the film an undertone of playfulness. At the same time, however, the face on the hand is indisputably a bit macabre.  The eyes particularly, are rather disturbing since they lack pupils.  The hand is shown with a stark black background with a green-ish dark lighting. This Chiaroscuro type image adds to the feeling that perhaps not everything is as happy as the original shot may suggest.  This shot clearly begs the question of "who does the hand belong to?" It immediately hooks the audience, making them interested in the character before they even see her. Since this is the first shot, it can not "make sense of feelings" as normal close ups do. It instead establishes emotional content in another way- creating a mood with images that will continue throughout the length of the film.

2.  The medium shot:  The medium shot still works in a similar way to the tradition medium shot in Amelie. It gives more information and confirms information, but it gives more information about the series of close up shots. In the first medium shot, Amelie sits, petrified in an arm chair. Someone has played a practical joke on her and she is horrified by what she thinks she has done. The shot is set up so Amelie is the center of focus. Her face is brightly lit from the side, emphasizing her expression of horror. The camera is positioned at a low angle which in this instance, shows the immensity of the chair in comparison to Amelie. This functions to make to look very small and very frightened. It is now clear that it is Amelie's hand we saw in the first shots. Amelie is almost always shown alone in the opening scenes of the movie, portraying an isolated quality to her childhood. She looks directly above the camera, but straight ahead which makes her appear paralyzed by fear.

3. Long Shot: This is literally the first Long shot I could find in Amelie which is more than five minutes in. The movie is shot in a series of close ups and medium shots, emphasizing different character traits about the different people portrayed in the film. It gives a sense of familiarity to them and puts the audience essentially "in the room" with the characters. This long shot is when Amelie and her mother go to Notre Dame. It shows the church and that little Amelie is with her mother. It is only seconds before her mother dies when a tourist jumps off the top of Notre Dame, committing suicide, and landing on Amelie's mother. This is realized only by narration and not shown. The fact that the scene is shot in the elegant entryway of Notre Dame adds an absurdity to the image when the narration is added. The brightest color int he shot is Amelie's coat which is used to put particular emphasis on her character and not her mother. The mother's character is rarely shown and if she is shown, it is like this shot: a distance shot which affords no ability to see her features close up. The way this shot is set up and the absurd nature of her death allows the audience to distance themselves from her death and to move on quickly with the storyline. The camera angle is straight on which is a power neutral stance.

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