Fear and Trembling (film)

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Stupeur et tremblements
Directed by Alain Corneau
Written by Amélie Nothomb
Alain Corneau
Starring Sylvie Testud
Kaori Tsuji
Taro Suwa
Bison Katayama
Release date(s) 2003
Running time 107 min
Country France, Japan
Language French/Japanese

Fear and Trembling (original title Stupeur et tremblements) is a French film based on the novel of the same name by Amélie Nothomb.


Amélie, a young Belgian woman (played by Sylvie Testud), having spent her childhood in Japan, decides to return to live there and tries to integrate into Japanese society. She is determined to be a "real Japanese" before her year contract runs out, though it is precisely this determination that is incompatible with Japanese humility. Though she is hired for a choice position as a translator at an import/export firm, her inability to understand Japanese cultural norms results in increasingly humiliating demotions. Though Amelie secretly adulates her immediate supervisor, Ms Mori (Kaori Tsuji), the latter takes sadistic pleasure in belittling Amelie. Mori finally manages to break Amelie's will by making her the bathroom attendant, and is delighted when Amelie tells her that she will not renew her contract. Amelie realizes that she is finally a real Japanese when she enters the company president's office "with fear and trembling," which was possible only because her determination had been broken by Mori's systematic humiliation.

The title, "Fear and Trembling", is said in the film to be the way Japanese must behave when addressing the Emperor. For Westerners, it calls to mind a line from Philippians 2:12, "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling", which could also describe Amélie's attitude during her year at Yumimoto.

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