Fear and Trembling

Director: Alain Corneau

France| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 107 mins.

Based on the best-selling autobiographical novel by the Belgian author Amelie Nothomb, Alain Corneau’s Fear and Trembling tells of a dreamy and romantic young French woman who returns to Japan, country of her birth, only to find herself overwhelmed by the mysterious and absurd machinations of the Japanese business world. Confounded by layer upon impenetrable layer of protocol, bewildered and frustrated by a closed and contemptuous system which ensures her steady and humiliating decline from translator to toilet attendant, Amelie (Sylvie Testud) is tested to the limits of sanity before stumbling upon her own extraordinary means of liberation.
Like the novel, the film adopts Amelie’s highly subjective viewpoint, with director Corneau combining sharply funny observations on the Japanese workplace with flashes of the heroine’s various flights of fantasy. To its credit, the film doesn’t pull any punches in its humorous portrayal of corporate Japan as seen through the eyes of a foreigner who desperately wants to fit in. As Amelie, the diminutive Testud gives a wonderful performance that won her the prestigious Best Actress Cesar at last year’s French film awards.

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