Amélie, by Jean-Pierre Jeunet is one of my favorite French films. The film tells of how Amélie Poulain, acts to anonymously impact the people in her life. Though odd, the story of Amélie captures the emotions the various personalities mankind can feel with a unique accuracy.
During my most recent viewing of Amélie, I noticed a scene that before had slipped by without my notice. There is a single minute in the film, unrelated to the main storyline. Amélie walks through the street after one of her successful missions to change a life. Until this point, the scene moves in slow motion reflecting her blissful state. Preparing to cross a street, Amélie recognizes a blind man waiting to cross the same street. With a sudden burst of energy, Amélie grabs the blind man by the arm and leads him across the busy street. The scene and music quicken as she walks him down the sidewalk, describing the scene of the street. “That’s the florist laughing,” she exclaims. “He has crinkly eyes. There are lollipops in the bakery! Do you smell that? They are giving out melon slices!”
As he walks, the blind man’s face lights up, as the viewer, you get the sense, this is the first time in a long time that he has felt this emotion. Amélie adds a detail of sight to each sense the man might hear or smell, giving him eyes for the streets he has so often walked alone. After this intense minute of detail, she leaves the blind man at the train while he smiles alone, feeling a new sense, bliss.
This scene hit me as I watched it, but I did not take its meaning until two days ago while walking the streets of Amsterdam, hurrying to my next destination. At a street crossing, I stopped, waiting for the hurried cars and bicycles to pass. Looking around, I thought of this scene. By hurrying through the crowded streets, I was failing to take in my surroundings.
I slowed down and smelled the pastries in a shop, felt the cobblestoned streets beneath my feet and admired the buildings along with their reflection in the canals. I quit worrying about the map, the next stop, the best picture and then I felt it, bliss.
It is not difficult to absorb the sensations of a new place. Amsterdam of all places is filled to the brim with them. But as I walk through the streets of my own home, I know there are many things I do not see. Too often I choose to be blind rather than like Amélie who thrives on sensation and emotion.
Life is full of sensations. Stop, breathe, experience.