#10 Vuk Karadzic, when publishing his first and second miscellany of folk & ethnic songs Pesnarka (1814, 1815), divides this oral material in two groups: heroic, and female, namely epic and lyrical, or in the most general option: the prose and the poetry. The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain, as a film, enters the constellation of this kind of division. The off voice, or namely – the film narrator, is a male voice. It is a dominant, superior, all-present and authorial, and he introduces Amelie to us in this film fiction. The Amelie herself is close to this narrator in many things, especially of that “female” type of discourse – her understanding of the world is very lyrical. She’s a dreamer, incarnated imagination, in the clouds she sees – now a teddy bear, now a rabbit; she loves the little things in life, she enjoys the colors of Paris and the concentric circles in the water made by the frogs in the canal of St. Martin. She’s a real lyrical nature.
#09 On the other hand, Amelie is an urban character; she comes from her father’s home in the suburban area, to live in the center of the happenings – at Monmartre. She makes an exodus from the female’s natural scheme, namely the familiarity with the nature in opposite of the culture, the “male’s” civilization.
In opposite of Amelie, the male characters in the film overtake the female characteristics. With female “performances” is, for instance – Nino, the man Amelie falls in love with, and who was never aggressive or violent, in opposite and in spite of his classmates in school. He also lives in his own lyrical world, he’s a dreamer, just like Amelie, he’s interested in the unusual and the bizarre, of the other side, of the world beyond, and for the ordinary people, even – of the bestial things, of the witchcraft (for instance, he records the unusual people’s laughter, or he collects thrown photos from the photo-automats). He, although he works in a pornoteque with the striptease cabin (a firm example of the pornoglosic ambient), his attitude toward the female body and the nakedness is highly asexual, the nudity as itself has no meaning for him: it simply doesn’t have any meaning for him.
In all this, Amelie’s courting fits perfectly, because her courting is far away from the manner known as “fem fatal” (as in the same-named film of Brian de Palma); she “enforces/provokes” the male to be interested in the “inner” things, not in the “outer” ones. She doesn’t play the role of a sexual object or of the “harem phantasm” (S. Slapshak). She uses her intelligence, wisdom and her high cleverness of the mind. She turns the seducing into a game.
#08 The male accepts the “cat & mouse” game, the game of hide & seek, where the Amelie is a kind of frightened of her identity, as Siskus would say – the fear of one’s own “Other”(ity), which “inhibits and frustrates” her, so she disguises herself behind other identities. Once he disguises herself in a typical male hero – Zorro, another time she takes the Audrey Hepburn, quoting her lines from the anthological Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (the resemblance between Audrey Totu and Audrey Hepburn is almost unbelievable!)
The female Don Quixote
#07 For a long time (especially in the Renaissance) in the literature and the art, the female characters were simplified, and they were presented as she-Saints or as fallen females (by bodily lust or by something else like it), with the actual segregation: inhuman-superhuman being. Amelie starts the path to become a Saint, making good deeds around and helping people, making them happy.
This missionary role she decides to take not by chance, but at the very day of the Mother Teresa’s death (probably in the future she’ll be canonized as Saint Teresa) and also near the death of Lady Diana (known and famous of her charity work). In the Catholic world that would be inevitably linked with the Saint Mary, the Mother of God. In one segment of the intextuality in The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain, namely – actually, the “film in a film” segment, she would see herself (with a vision) as a “protector of the cast-out ones”, as a “contemporary Don Kihote”, whose goal is to redeem the humanity out of the world’s misfortune.
#06 Amelie, as a woman, and as an “Other”(ity), realizes herself through the “Other” ones. She tries to help them, to make them happy: her landlord, the man to whom she revoked his childhood with the (long time hidden) 40-years old “memory box”, the helpless assistant in the grocery store, or the unrealized writer… Although Y. Kristeva claims that the woman is put out of the language and power, here, the Amelie’s power can be seen in her ability to help the others. But it seems that she loses her powers when it comes to herself personally. In the moments of decision, she is inconsistent and labile, she’s simply powerless. At the end, her destiny goes over to the hands of the men – Nino and the painter, which stimulates her decision. If there was a marriage forced upon Frosina, and if she was torn out of her destiny and put in the constant desire and permanent state of Longing for something that should yet to happen, in The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain we have the fulfillment of Amelie’s desire and longing, but she doesn’t possess the “ male courage” to do it by herself. The infinite things sometimes become spookier than the finite ones, so her perpetual hiding, masking and hiding of her identity can provoke the inhibition and annulation of the same.
#05 This double, contrary and paradoxical picturing of the (female) character can be seen in a row of other things, also. At one hand, Amelie has a typical profession – a waitress – she serves the other ones (in “Two Mills” men are the majority guests), but on the other hand, there is something “sacred” in her character, although she isn’t abstract, the carnal and other pleasures are very familiar to her. She isn’t “ruled” by her father, she lefts the home very young, getting her “independence”. In spite of that, while Nino drives his moped, she makes cookies (I couldn’t even imagine the more clichéd image of the patriarchal representation of women. The kitchen and the bedroom are the Reign of the woman, aren’t they!?).
#04 This kind of approach in the forming of the characters is only the part of the art procedure of “estranging” the film material so one can “feel” the art aside from the “common” reality, and the other procedures are present in the unusual scene linkage and in the editing of the film – both on the semantic and on the structural level. Although the story is narrated by the mail voice in off – that voice is also inclined towards the unusual and the details, the narrator is “that strange and sensible eye that notices even the smallest details, for instance, how the glasses dance on one of the tables.
The Amelie’s father seems to take her mother’s death even heavier than her, although Slapshak claims that “the dead hero belongs to the women that bath and dress him, that vigil over him and cherish him, preparing him for the funeral and moan upon him”. IN The Unusual Destiny of Amelie Poulain, the father is the one who totally unreasonably gets to the very bottom of the grief, and he’s in the state of constant and permanent moaning.
#03 As an opposite of the man who always watches football as every real man does (castrating the little Amelie’s desire to engage in photography), is the boring courtship of Georgette’s follower, which haunts her constantly, the behavior unthinkable for a “macho” being, which is primarily an “experience tracker” (Bauman).
The tendentious inconsistence, the junctions of the opposites (the limits and differentiations between the male and female characteristic common to the traditional imagology vanish in this film), as well as the vague shading of the characters in their (male or female) gender, can impress a kind of a dual presence of both genders and of mixing the male/female roles in every character equally – on a certain diegetic level.
#02 Since the first eye-encounter between Amelie and Nino – their mutual familiarity/predestination can be felt – quietly revealing the myth from Plato’s Feast – about the division of the Third Gender (male-female), and the Two Halves in search one for another. But – that’s completely different story now…
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski