Fear and Trembling, directed by Alain Corneau and based on the novel of the same name written by Amélie Northomb, is an interesting film that shows us how the Japanese work culture develops, famous for being very cooperative and intense. Here every worker gets especially involved, and not working is considered a sin or is simply frowned upon.

Fear and Trembling” is Screening at Japan Society

We see the protagonist, a Belgian woman, evolving in a Japanese company. She works hard and we are witnesses of the events that are happening as a result of this culture in which she is immersed, very different from the western culture to which she has been submerged, in addition of observing the stereotypes the Japanese have about Westerners. It is evident that the story and the focus of the film is somewhat exaggerated.

Amélie, daughter of the Belgian ambassador in Japan, was born in Kobe, Japan, in 1967. When she was five, he settled with his family in Europe and Amélie had dreamed since, to return to the country she was born. When she reaches 22, and given her knowledge of Japanese, she returns to Japan where she is hired for a year as a translator in a large corporation in Tokyo.

It is precisely this moment in her life where the film focuses, where we are told about the bitterness and disregard that Amélie has to experience in her office, due to the unreasonableness of her bosses, her colleagues and the system of the Japanese company, which here is presented as almost military, with an absolute hierarchical chain of commands, from which the employee who tries to skip is not tolerated or forgiven.

“Fear and Trembling” tells us this story in a tragicomic way, with a pleasant touch in which the protagonist is almost always standing up with a smile carrying out her tasks, with The Goldberg variations of Bach wandering throughout the film at all times, giving it a gentle experience very common in French cinema. Any normal person would have already thrown him/herself out the window if they had to endure all the pressure the main character suffers. Amélie however, does not do that; yes, she jumps out of the window, but to fly over the city of Tokyo, contemplating the city under a sweet breeze and sweet background classical music.

The cast of the film, which is a French production for the most part, is composed almost entirely of Japanese actors, with the exception of Amélie’s character, played by Sylvie Testud, who gives a masterful performance without emotionally overloading her character. The looks made by the actress can really be felt, and that is something that also applies to her co-star Kaori Tsuji, giving life to Fubuki, who will be a character of vital importance for the adventure that our protagonist will experience in the company. Other actors such as Taro Suwa and Bison Katayama must also be highlighted, giving life to the strict superior bosses of the main characters; and also Yasunari kondo playing a humble co-worker who will give some importance to Amélie’s character.

Amélie’s dramatic adventure becomes a mirror of the differences between East and West and also of their similarities: the waste of human resources, the trips, the social climbing and the abyss of communication between bosses and workers. These are not exclusive features to any country. The truth is that we all live in a community where more than three quarters of the working population feels really disgusted by their work, something indicative of the extent to which the famous globalization is subdued to the capitalist imperative.

It is also true that some aspects of the story are somewhat exaggerated, for example the extent of humiliation and abuse the protagonist has to endure.

Overall, “Fear and Trembling” is an excellent film which deals with business hierarchies and the pressures that are sometimes suffered at work, all told between drama and comedy, resulting in a curious corporate tragicomedy that finds the best of its strengths in irony.

Born in Spain in the early 90's. Anime has been with me all my life and i became a film lover on my mid-teen years. My interest and love for asian cinema especially began a couple of years later when i watched two specific films: Hard Boiled and Chungking Express. Since then, i'ts been non stop. I really fell in love with the style of Hong Kong action cinema and with all kinds of films from Japan, South Korea, China and Thailand. There's something very special in all these asian flicks: A unique style, originality, grittiness and passion. It's a whole new world. You can follow me on twitter: @PeterPayne9