A dream job rapidly becomes a nightmare for Amélie, a Japanese-born Belgian woman, who suffers a series of increasingly humiliating demotions after she lands a job as an interpreter at a large Japanese corporation. Sylvie ... more »Testud earned the French equivalent of the Academy Award® for her haunting performance as the put-upon, but indomitable Amélie. Director Alain Corneau?s (Tous les matins du monde) perversely funny adaptation of Amélie Nothomb?s 1999 autobiographical novel loses nothing in translation in deftly dissecting the universal absurdities of corporate culture.« less
Yearning for Acceptance Transmutes into Perverse Battle of C
Diana F. Von Behren | Kenner, LA USA | 06/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Alan Corneau's film adaptation of Amelie Nothomb's autographical novel "Fear and Trembling" borders on a near perfect portrayal of a young Belgian ingénue's desire to be understood and accepted amidst a backdrop of cultural differences as glimpsed from under the bell jar of the Japanese corporation. Corneau does author Nothomb's story one better, casting redheaded elf Sylvie Testud in the lead role. While her wistful facial expressions easily maneuver the audience to see matters from the Western perspective from the get-go, Testud manages to achieve a Chaplin-esque timing that charms as well as amuses as she ponders her bad karma in the corporate world with an almost Zen-like complacency.
Hired as an interpreter, Amelie struggles to maintain some degree of necessity in an environment that is clearly working overtime to make her feel worthless. As her tale of self-awareness progresses, she finds herself demoted to bathroom attendant, completely humiliated by the likes of her superior, the tall, beautiful and statuesque Fubuki Mori (played wonderfully by actress/model Kaori Tsuji) who Amelie openly admires with a fierce allegiance that pathetically fringes on fanatic adoration.
Similar in theme to Sophia Coppola's "Lost in Translation," "Fear and Trembling" does a much better job of entertaining while delivering the Western head-scratching message regarding the Japanese philosophical fixation on obedience and loyalty to the hierarchical social entity as opposed to individual enterprise. As the film moves towards its eventual conclusion, it never once becomes muddled or caught in the quagmire of its own cleverness. Instead, Corneau pits Tsuji and Testud against each other with an unspoken sexual tension that beguiles with masochistic undertones. That the two characters are attracted to each other in some perverse way adds to the utter emptiness of their lives at the Yumimoto conglomerate where the glass ceiling hangs overhead like a phantom sword of Damocles.
Bottom line? As Amelie quakes with appropriate "fear and trembling"---the title of this film refers to behavior expected from anyone in the presence of the emperor---she still swells within with her Western pride yet basks in her ability to be as humble as a native born Japanese. This journey of self-discovery and cultural differences sparkles with a superior comedy thanks to Testud's Cesar winning performance and Corneau's slightly mindgame erotic adapation of Nothomb's novel. Recommended highly. Diana Faillace Von Behren reneofc "
Funny But With Multi-Layers
Leung Tse Choi | 12/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you are looking for funny jokes of cultural differences, you may be 50% satisfied. If you want to understand Japanese culture from a westerner point of view, you will be 75% satisfied. (More on this later.) If you are looking for an "art film", this one may fail you. That is why I gave it 4-stars rating.
From a layman viewer point of view, one may find this film funny but a bit pretentious. From a art-film buff point of view, one may find this too naive. I have to say this film is not very successful to appeal to either world.
However, if you really have the time and mind-set to understand Japanese culture (not just those mentioned in a tourist guide book), this is pretty good point to start. The film used an exaggerated manner to examplified the deeper cultural structure of Japan. The film starts with the central character (a Japan born Belgian girl) introducing her position in a big Japanese company through a company chart-way: A is B's supervisor and B is C's supervisor and finally X is her supervior. And the film ends (not the actual ending but end of her career in that company) with she telling each of these supervisors, from her immediate supervisor to the managing director, her leaving and thier different reaction to it. If you use this structure as a guide to view this film. You may find this film worth more than what it looks like initially.
Good viewing and enjoy it. I recommend it to those who have the time and sensitivity toward other culture. "
Painful lessons from an idealized homeland...
S. McCallister | Seattle WA United States | 09/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having spent her early childhood in Japan, a young European woman returns to her idealized homeland with a 1 year contract in a Japanese corporation. Full of hope, she encounters a seemingly endless series of cultural missteps and dashed expectations. She soon discovers that she is truly a stranger in a strange land.
How bad can it get? Very, very bad. You'll see.
This is the Evil Twin of those movies that mine humor and happy endings out of "fish out of water" situation.
The film is both emotionally wrenching at times but restrained in acting and every other way. By no means a light or uplifting story, it is neverless interesting and often very emotionally compelling."
Good intentions in wrong places
Reader | Boca Raton, FL | 09/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Many years ago, I used to work in Asia (China). It was fascinating to be part of the world totally foreign to me until that moment. For that reason, I wanted to see this movie and experience how it is (or was) for others in similar situation. Here is the story of a young Belgian woman, college graduate, fluent in Japanese and nostalgic about childhood past and romanticized experiences from living in Japan. She is about to recapture the time lost in between and reclaim her belonging in Japanese society. The eagerness to please does her no good but rather puts her in more trouble every time to the point that she is demoted to a bathroom attendant. One must show the utmost respect for the actress Sylvie Testud who managed to learn Japanese language for this role. The story of young woman's will and determination in keeping the demeaning job for the entire duration of her contract in spite of humiliations she experiences is both funny and heartbreaking. Human nature, cultural differences and misplaced loyalties all overlap in this powerful story. Definitely see this work -- it will not leave your feeling indifferent."
West goes east
Meesha77 | Florida | 09/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As listed, this movie is about Amelie, a young women who spend her first 5 years in Japan in the country and has longed to return to the country. Things are never what you expect or how you viewed them as a child. She is hired by a Japanese company as an interpretor for a year contract. She does everything but her job. She is not only given cultural lessons, but also lessons of human behavior. Is is emotional - hot and cold. I enjoyed the film and thought that it flowed well. Even though it was subtitled, you really felt the emotional and nuances of the characters."