Basement Films: Outside the Norm

Sean Strain

You know what I always like once in a while? The movie that’s about the loner; the person who is on the edge of society and is looking in. It’s probably our society’s celebration of the individual that makes us love those kind of films, but there is something facsinating about an individual who breaks social norms and boundaries.

One movie I saw recently that exemplified this was the French film, Amelie, which is actually a very acclaimed film in France, though not so much in America. The movie tells the story of the titular character, who is withdrawn from those around her after being raised for years by distant parents, yet after a chance encounter, she decides to improve the lives of those around her, which eventually leads her to meet her love interest, another eccentric who collects the pictures discarded at photobooths for a scrapbook.

All the characters are a bit strange including Amelie’s next door neighbor who recreates the same Renoir paiting each year, or her hypocondriac coworker who has a new disease everyday. I think another reason we have an interest in the outsider is also a motif often explored within the film itself. Whenever a character is introduced, they include information about what they like or dislike, which are often small things. For example, Amelie’s mother is introduced as enjoying to sort the items in her purse, but hates the pillow marks on her face when she awakes.

The appeal of those outside society is that this person doesn’t have the burdens many of us have such as relationships. This gives them a solitude to enjoy the small pleasures of life whether it’s running your fingers through sand or enjoying a orange; they can stop to feel all the sensations around us. This is the hermit life-style that the poets of the Romantic poets wrote passionately about. It is something we can hardly imagine in a society that is based on social contact, yet is something we all perhaps fantasize about when we want to escape the world.