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also known as Stupeur et tremblements

Fear and Trembling2003

  • 4.0
A dream job rapidly becomes a nightmare for Amelie, 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 Testud earned the French equivalent of the Academy Award® for her haunting performance as the put-upon, but indomitable Amélie. Director Alain Corneau's (ALL THE MORNINGS OF THE WORLD) perversely funny adaptation of Amélie Nothomb's 1999 autobiographical novel loses nothing in translation in deftly dissecting the universal absurdities of corporate culture.

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10 members like this review

From the onset I thought I would watch "the French version of Office Space," and I could not have been, both more incorrect, and more pleased that it wasn't. As a female having worked in corporate and government environments, Amelie's desire for "a job that stimulates the mind," resonated within. Perhaps it was the Yo Corp and her disillusionment with it that showed her that it was her responsibility to create work that utilized her innate gifts and talents, and it was their responsibility to "give her something to do," which Miss Mori took great pleasure in. This film is imaginative, yet echoes so many of the frustrations women and men encounter in the workplace. You want to show that you're smart and capable, but just don't be too smart and capable because that insights jealousy. It's precisely this form of thinking that keeps mankind in a primitive state--fear and trembling, is right.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (38)

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top reviewer

From the onset I thought I would watch "the French version of Office Space," and I could not have been, both more incorrect, and more pleased that it wasn't. As a female having worked in corporate and government environments, Amelie's desire for "a job that stimulates the mind," resonated within. Perhaps it was the Yo Corp and her disillusionment with it that showed her that it was her responsibility to create work that utilized her innate gifts and talents, and it was their responsibility to "give her something to do," which Miss Mori took great pleasure in. This film is imaginative, yet echoes so many of the frustrations women and men encounter in the workplace. You want to show that you're smart and capable, but just don't be too smart and capable because that insights jealousy. It's precisely this form of thinking that keeps mankind in a primitive state--fear and trembling, is right.

10 members like this review
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top reviewer

Wonderful movie. Sylvie Testud was amazing. An accurate look at corporate culture but also an accurate look at human nature. Actually, not "natural" human behavior, but what happens when the spirit is crushed and frustrated, which unfortunately is most of the time in our culture. But Amelie came through her experience without bitterness, a good example for all of us to follow.

Highly recommended.

6 members like this review
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top reviewer

An exquisite film that is much more than a survey of the madness of corporate culture: East meets West; beauty and brutality; individualism versus collectivism; the triumph of letters (fiction) over numbers (accounting). Wonderful, spare acting; beautiful cinematography; and a clever choice of the Goldberg variations which, in their eerie economy and precision, are perfectly suited to West and East.

6 members like this review
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top reviewer

An entertaining, but at times also sad caricature of japanese corporate life, but grounded in very deep and insightful reality that is slowly but surely changing in Japan.

More a theater play than a movie, which makes the joy of watching the actors even more intense.

Well made, artsy movie. Worthwhile to to see.

4 members like this review
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top reviewer

It is comforting to find validation around one's unresolved, bitter political battles, reliving them vicariously though this film's office culture, and I mean particularly as a woman. A pleasure to see a young European take on the Japanese traditions embodied in the patriarch roles here, but it was heartbreaking seeing her endure the betrayal of her female Japanese object of admiration. In the end, the film viewer seeking redemption here finds, and rightly so, that the cultures may be different, but we are all fighting the same battle. There are gaps in the storyline around the evolution of our Belgian heroine to see how she ultimately blossomed to succeed in an artistic career, and I would love to see a film of the story of how that happened.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

Japanese office torture. Exquisite, sadistic, hilarious.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

It's clear that people working within corporate culture in the US readily identified with this film, so maybe it's not as much a caricaturization as I felt it to be. As with Win Wenders' documentary "Tokyo Ga", which, however well-intentioned, put me in mind of one of those Nazi propaganda films about Jews, this vu Francais/Belge de Japanese corporate culture, while evidently based on personal experience, leaves me a bit uncomfortable, and having no corporate experience, I'm reminded instead of my own experiences in Brussells and above all Paris at being taken, however easily and correctly, for a foreigner. Also, I found this movie to be pretty slow and I skipped ahead several times before just packing it in. So this isn't a very informed review, but I'm just stating the feelings I came away with in giving this film a shot watching about 45 minutes total. The to me odd choice of Bach's Goldberg Variations as the score certainly reinforced my unease.

2 members like this review

I lived in Japan and worked there. So, maybe the film has some special meaning, but I really liked it.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

I'd liken watching this movie to listening to a close friend tell you about their terrible/zany day at work, except the day is actually a year. At first, you're not particularly interested in what she's saying, but you enjoy the funny thoughts and musings she injects, and the story gets more interesting as it goes on. Overall, since she is your close friend, and since the story was actually not half bad, it is a pleasant experience.

1 member likes this review

Excellent !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 member likes this review

very thought-provoking.

1 member likes this review

Thoroughly enjoyed it.

1 member likes this review

This movie you must not miss. A jewel of color and form, it expresses the firmness of spirit that refuses to bend to a hierarchical superiority exerted en masse by society and tradition.

pepin

1 member likes this review

loved every second of this masterpiece.Miss tested gave a brilliant performance.love this new film to my mind.

1 member likes this review

Really delightful corporate and cultural story line with a built-in, slow-moving and tasteful female eroticism. But, I like it slow, otherwise one less star.

1 member likes this review

gripping and accurate...excellent performances

1 member likes this review

I did love it. good movie

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

An enjoyable film about petty corporate politics and the clash between Japanese and Western mindsets.

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top reviewer

AT THE VERY BGINNING OF THE MOVIE FEAR AND TREMBLING ONE IS TOTALLY TRANSFIXED BY THE COMING UNWINDING OF THE PLOT IT IS AN EXCEPTIONAL MOVIE VERY WELL ACTED AND FUNNY QUITE OFTEN LIKE NOTHING EVEN CLOSE HAS BEEN FILMED BEFORE...ITS CUTE AND FAST PACED WITH VERY FEW DULL MOMENTS AND SEVERAL SURPRISES THIS MOVIE IS AN ABSOLUTE AND TOTAL ENJOYMENT TO WATCH BY ANYONE!

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top reviewer

Who can really understand the petty conspiracies that occur in the corporate world where some are ready to sell out friends for their own pride and benefit unless you have been there? The story has been played out in many films and novels but never quite so endearingly as with Amelie and her persistence to break through the morass of tradition and corporatism. The Zen garden at Kyosho gave the young Amelie the feeling of peace and mindfulness that permeated her world until years later when she experienced the other side of the coin. I love Sylvie Testud's acting as she shows grit and determination in the face of inexplicable obstruction. The Goldberg variations seemed somehow perfect accompaniment to this good-natured and yet emotionally satisfying movie. Kudos to the entire cast as well! Worth your time to view.

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top reviewer

Everything about the film , actors, camera work, script - gets thumbs-up from me. I mean I liked the film, but I didn't like it. It portrays business religion with bold color yet a delicate touch. Something in me grumbles at the whole system (all similar systems, not just those in Japan!) that encourages efficient mediocrity and personal loyalty. Our heroine stood fast, was resolute, employed good strategy, and in the end, I think, she persevered, she came out on top, she won - but it didn't make any difference. The system suffocates and drowns individuals and dreams. People abandon themselves to loyally serve those whom they do not respect. Maybe what troubles me are those almost forgotten memories when I struggled as she did. She did much better than I did.

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top reviewer

One Positive: The actors were excellent with the material they were given to present.

The (overwhelming) Negatives: Unrealistic material. The writing and screenplay fall short.

Even the best run corporations around the world have retarded idiosyncrasies, but the setting (presented) for this department of an enormous Japanese corporation, engaged in international trade was incredulous (for the 1990s), even in Japan.

After years of business / management consulting (including corporate culture in mostly US-based, large, multinational corporations in numerous industries) and with awareness of distinctions in Japanese and other cultures and corporate settings) . . . this film presented a waaaayyyy over-the-top, command-and-control, top-down, hierarchical Japanese corporate business setting for the 1990s.

Japan’s manufacturing transformed from junk merchant to high-quality producer, after World War II with Total Quality initiatives, thanks to inviting a PhD statistician from the West, Dr. Edward Deming (early 1950s). Given this, it is absolutely incredulous that 40 years later, we would find an administrative department of an enormous, Japanese-based international corporation (like the one in which Amelie worked) would be backwards to such an extreme extent.

In terms of development, yes, we saw pride and dignity (a choice of Amelie) like Jean-Paul Sarte, the philosopher, would describe an individual who experiences freedom like never before (in his/her mind), even those he/she is incarcerated (Viktor Frankl-like). And we also witnessed great success after her year’s contract expired (pressed into the last 2-3 minutes of the film) with Amelie returning to Belgium to write a novel and get it published, followed by her (former) supervisor hand-writing an edition of it in Japanese (respectful). It was just too painful and disappointing as a viewer of this film to go through 104 unrealistic, over-baked minutes to get to the last 2-3 half-baked minutes.

If you would like to view the inverse, watch “Wag the Dog.” Where “Fear and Trembling” has a feasible plot that is so poorly carried out to be believable, “Wag the Dog” creates a fictitious plot from thin air and portrays it as real and completely believable.

(Maybe I was not in the right frame of mind while watching and thus, entirely missed the point and failed the gain the immense satisfaction that the bulk of reviewers of this film realized)

Very exciting.

I wouldn't compare this to "Office Space" but more to a delicious little indie film called "Clockwatchers". I had just recently seen the lead actress in another film for the first time. She has an ethereal almost aloof quality but is so endearing. Incredibly impressed with her spoken Japanese as is the case with Charlotte Gainesburg's French. So much of the film seemed like a caricature but then you could see it as a truly cultural difference. Of course, in the States, it is not all that different to our corporate culture except the two juxtapose themselves: ours being individual gain and the Japanese are more collective, at least in the way this film portrays itself. However, since she is Belgian, this comparison can not be made without knowledge of, specifically, how the Belgian are in the workplace. Little digs were made at Americans so just because she is a from the West, doesn't mean her work ethic is at all similar to the American work ethic. I had actually missed in the beginning the part that she had a one-year contract. When I found that out in the end, It clarified what was happening and made it less like a caricature than before. I found it intriguing and eye-opening to watch Miss Mori and Amelie interact and the completely different mindsets. Amelie was intuitive, hopeful, reflective and emotionally analytical. They portrayed Miss Mori as one dimensional until about the end. I found it a captivating film.

I've worked in offices with inter office politics like this. Amazingly well done movie. Triumphant ending, well worth the time.

Mostly amusing. An enjoyable watch.

I only watched half of it when the picture stopped and the circular arrangement of dots in the middle of the page began to rotate and I was never able to get the film back

I just watched a little bit of this film. I "ll now return to reading The Financial Times but I do want to add that I am privileged to be a fan of Sylvie Testud.

interesting characters and the power of humility and the strenght of roles one pursue.

Superb film. Quite true to life . . death perhaps. I remained with a US corporation where I was abused and degraded to distraction. A relentless program of degradation was applied to me because of my own differences, and I have learned that it is indeed true that people in businesses will do the same to you, they WILL hurt you, until you they have killed everything . . everything . . inside of you. I can attest to the film's veracity. This film works best as a cautionary tale: it is best to leave BEFORE they have killed you.

I was quite surprised by this. Funny and moving, with a great performance by Sylvie Testud. She reminded me of Giulietta Masina.

It was somewhat entertaining... I am still very confused at the whole plot, I think i would have to watch it again to fully understand it.

I lived and worked in Japan for about four-and-a-half years and there are many instances in this film that I really related to. Like Amelie, I found my self being transfixed about the special aspects of Japanese culture and beauty. It is safe to say that I daydreamed, at times, like Amelie.

Hilarious and illuminating at the same time, an inside look at Japanese corporate culture.

Great movie!

This movie was okay but i would not see it again.

Good movie!

A very unusual and wonderful story!!!!!