Movie: Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Composer: Yann Tiersen
I know this is a french movie, but as I’ve said many times: when it comes to expressing my thoughts about soundtracks, english is my language of choice (don’t ask me why, I don’t even know myself). That being said, if you ever have a chance to watch this movie in its original language, please do – it’s definitely worth it. Let’s get started, shall we?
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain is one of those movies I never get tired of watching. From the very first lines narrated by André Dussollier to the beautifully edited ending, this movie is nothing short of amazing and its enduring fan base is further evidence that proves my point. Naturally, just like every kid watching a movie for grown ups, I didn’t really like the movie the first time I saw it (I must’ve been around 8 years old). However, I did enjoy the music and after seeing it multiple times with a mature perspective, I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite movies of all time. There’s something about the colors, the characters, the story, and the setting that makes this movie so special. Still, the one thing that has stuck with me since the very beginning is – you guessed it – the music.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of directors who use modern classical music in their movies. In my honest opinion, a movie that requires a soundtrack should always have an original one, not something recycled or taken from somebody else. Nonetheless, Yann Tiersen’s music in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain is simply perfect. Anything composed by a conventional Hollywood movie composer couldn’t have captured the movie’s atmosphere and themes as well as Tiersen’s music did. I talked about atmospheric music in my blog about Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and I think a lot of it can be applied to Jeunet’s movie. However, I believe Yann Tiersen’s music has something that The Grand Budapest Hotel didn’t have, and that is: emotion. Don’t get me wrong, Alexandre Desplat’s work on the The Grand Budapest Hotel is fucking amazing and has a lot of emotion but, if you ask me, Tiersen’s music strikes a lot more your inner emotional cords. Both of the soundtracks work extremely well with the movie they support, but Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain has something a lot more poignant. Let me explain.
In The Grand Budapest Hotel, the music doesn’t have as much effect as it does in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain simply because of the way our emotions are being controlled. On the first side, Anderson decided to show us the characters having an adventure in the world he created. On the other side, Jeunet places us at the heart of the main character so we actually feel what she’s feeling. A fancy word for this technique is: internalization. A lot of directors who’ve used the technique actually use it to intensify emotional scenes. That’s why Tiersen’s music works a lot better on an emotional level because Jeunet used it at his advantage and placed the audience in a certain mood – I mean, it also helps that the music itself is fucking beautiful.
Other than the internalization, a big part of the music’s effect in the movie is the music itself (duh). Part of making a movie is creating a world that seems real and genuine, and nothing could’ve represented the beautiful city of Paris better than Tiersen’s magnificent use of the accordion. It’s hard to represent a country with only one instrument but I believe he pulled it off quite smoothly with his delicate use of the European instrument. That’s where Tiersen and Desplat fall in the same category; both of them were able to illustrate their movie’s world with the simple use of one instrument that can be associated to the world’s culture. This technique works extremely well when it comes to creating an atmosphere – ergo, atmospheric music.
To put it simply, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain‘s soundtrack might not have some memorable themes like Star-Wars or The Lord of the Rings, but it certainly stands as one of the best and most iconic soundtracks in the history of cinema. Need proof? Listen to any film student trying to learn the piano. Chances are that he or she is playing Comptine d’un Autre Été…
Interesting trivia: Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet discovered Yann Tiersen’s musical work while he was driving from one set to another with one of his production assistants. Falling immediately in love with Tiersen’s work, Jeunet commissioned him to compose more pieces for the movie. Consequently, the soundtrack contains many pieces from Tiersen’s old albums as well as some new pieces that he eventually added to his album called L’Absente which came out the same year the movie did.
Song: La Noyée
Song: La Valse d’Amélie
Song: La Dispute
Thanks for reading (and listening). See you next time!