Nostalgic daydreams about Amélie

“In such a dead world, Amélie prefers to dream until she’s old enough to leave home.”

 

I was planning to write this week’s blog post about the intuitive process I use to make important decision, but this Mindfulness-based practice soon made way for my Daydreamer side. You see, dear reader, at the time of writing the original essay, I was listening to the soundtrack of the movie Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain or simply, Amélie. The waltz on Yann Tiersen’s accordion sent toward me waves of nostalgia that continued to beckon until I finally gave up my attempt to write about the original subject and gave into the temptation to allow my mind to roam (and oh, how my mind loves to roam).

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The street from the opening scene of Amélie. I took this photo through the gold-tinted polarized sunglasses I had on me at the time to create a filter similar to the one used in the film.

I first saw Amelie in the spring of 2002 with my mom at a local budget movie theatre. I was smitten. I’m still infatuated. In Amélie I found a kindred spirit, and Audrey Tautou quickly became one of my most admired actresses. The shy but remarkably curious and passionate girl on the big screen fascinated me with her daydreams and hilarious fantastical scenarios that she wove in her head, affording her so much more comfort than she finds in the world outside. Yet, she also nudges herself to slowly explore and awaken her inner strength in order to create a real life out of her daydreams, all the while getting an altruistic kick out of helping people in her community in endearing unconventional ways. As an INFP, I was riveted by the screenplay, the dialogue, whimsical quotes, and the even more whimsically charming little flat in which Amélie lives in the Montmartre in Paris, which also happens to be my favourite neighbourhood of the city. As I sat in the dark theatre, with a wide smile on my face, I marvelled at the affinity that I felt toward this fictional character, my long-lost twin. I knew I had to find her.

Almost ten years ago, while on our honeymoon in France, Mr. Wanderlust and I dedicated an entire sunny day in late July to exploring Amélie’s Montmartre. I remain infinitely grateful to Mr. Wanderlust for his patience. After researching the movie locations online and planning our day, we started our visit at the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro station, then visited the little corner grocery stand that transformed into ‘Collignon & Fils’ for the film (that’s me in the photo above, reading the many newspaper clippings that adorn the window of the little shop), visited Cafe des deux moulins where Amélie works, made our way to the Sacré-Coeur basilica, and even unexpectedly spotted, while strolling along rue Pigalle, the adult video shop in which Amélie’s love interest, Nino, is employed. I felt I found her there. I found Amélie.

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When the film first made its North American debut, I was in the midst of completing my first year of journalism school. Every day, I second-guessed my choice of the field of study, and felt greatly intimidated by my assignments, which required me to step into a role of a confident extrovert. I went into that field because I enjoyed writing. Yet, each time I was expected to pick up the phone to speak with interview subjects, I wished I could run home and hide under the covers of my bed with a novel in which fascinating people went out into a fascinating world, to do fascinating things. I preferred to hide behind email than to pick up the phone and speak with a live person. Come to think of it, I still do prefer email as a mode of communication; it provides me with plenty of time to gather my thoughts and compose messages that allow me to express myself more eloquently, more carefully.

Amélie reminded me that it’s not enough to daydream and live vicariously though the exciting lives of others. She showed me that I must nudge myself, over and over again, to step outside of my comfort zone, to go out and create life as an active participant. Although I no longer need to remind myself of this message on a regular basis, I remember the shy, terrified girl who hides somewhere within me. From time to time, she wishes she could stay under the covers and not have to deal with the real world in which she lives, with the real people with whom it’s not always easy to get along. And so, over and over, I get up, take a deep breath with a long exhale, and resolve to sprinkle a bit more kindness throughout the world around me as I take sips from my confidence shake. Before long, I walk a little taller along my suburban street, with the sunshine on my face, hearing La valse d’Amélie as it plays somewhere close by. I think I will watch the film again this weekend, for the umpteenth time, to satisfy my nostalgic reminiscence.

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Amélie’s workplace.

Is there a film toward which or a character toward whom you feel an extraordinary affinity? Please leave a comment below, and thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

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