The Uncanny & Interesting Films of Belgian writer, Amélie Nothomb

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The Baroness Fabienne Claire Nothomb, aka Belgian author Amélie Nothomb, isn’t quite Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates-level prolific, but she comes pretty close. Since the Francophone Belgian writer published her first novel in 1992, at the age of twenty-six, she has published about a book a year, including her new book, First Blood, which Frenchly reviewed this week. She’s also the author of a play and a handful of short stories and novellas. Along the way, a few of her more popular books have been adapted for stage and screen. Voici the movies inspired by Nothomb’s narratives and where you can stream them.

Hygiene and the Assassin (Hygiène de l’assassin), 1999. Directed by François Ruggieri.

In Nothomb’s first published novel, which became a European bestseller, Nobel Prize winning author Prétextat Tach (André Dussollier) has two months to live. As news of his imminent death comes out, journalists arrive at his home en masse for a chance to interview the famously reclusive author. One after another, they learn the esteemed intellect has become an odious, embittered and misogynistic misanthrope. Then Nina (Barbara Schulz) arrives, the only woman to interview Tach, determined to go head-to-head with him about his past and his twisted ideas. When he turns up dead, Nina, the last known person to see him alive, becomes the prime suspect.

The film is not available to stream at this time. But watch the weird, arty trailer here!

Fear and Trembling (Stupeur et Tremblements), 2003. Directed by Alain Corneau.

Based on Nothomb’s experience living in Japan in her early twenties in the 1990s, the film digs deep into the angst and aspirations of a Belgian woman named Amélie (Sylvie Testud), who looks back at the year she spent working as an interpreter for a corporation in Tokyo. What starts out as a dream job morphs into a nightmare as cultural differences and language barriers prove too challenging to surmount. The film was nominated for the César award for writing and won Testud the Lumiere and César awards for best actress.

Stream on Amazon Prime, Vudu and Roku.

Tokyo Fiancée (2014). Director: Stefan Liberski

Based on Nothomb’s novel Ni d’Eve ni d’Adam, Tokyo Fiancée begins with the words, “I was 20. I wanted to be Japanese. It was my goal in life,” spoken by another young Belgian woman named Amélie (Pauline Étienne)—this one is cute as a young Juliette Binoche with a pixie cut—who was born in Japan and forced by her parents to leave at age 5 and spend the rest of her childhood and adolescence longing to return. To pay for her Japanese lessons and tiny flat, Amélie gives French lessons and lands herself exactly one student, a rich young man, Rinri (Taichi Inoue), who might be the cutest/sweetest person on earth. Much confusion ensues in this adorably quirky rom-com about the complications of cross-cultural love. It’s surprisingly poignant and soulful—and as cute as winking manga girls soaring through the pamplemousse pink heavens wearing Hello Kitty barrettes and cross-body bags.

Stream on YouTube.

A Perfect Enemy (based on the novel, Cosmétique de l’ennemi), 2020. Directed by Kike Maíllo.

In this psychological thriller, an architect Jeremias Angust (Tomasz Kot) meets a mysterious young woman named Texel Textor (Athena Strates) at the airport after missing his flight. She starts to tell him her twisted story, which winds its way under his skin, into his head. Is there a cat and mouse game at play behind this seemingly chance encounter that grows increasingly sinister with the passing minutes?

Stream on Roku or Amazon Prime.


The Character of Rain (Métaphysique des Tubes), 2021. Directed by Liane-Cho Han.

This animated work-in-progress is based on Nothomb’s novel about a two-year-old Belgian girl born in Japan (a common subject in her work), this one who believes she is God. According to a description of the project, “the girl believes she can make plants grow in the garden or even cross the sea on foot. The Japanese believe that until the age of three, children are gods, and this beautiful new story explores the idea.”

Watch the awesome trailer here.

Andrea Meyer has written creative treatments for commercial directors, a sex & the movies column for IFC, and a horror screenplay for MGM. Her first novel, Room for Love (St. Martin’s Press) is a romantic comedy based on an article she wrote for the New York Post, for which she pretended to look for a roommate as a ploy to meet men. A long-time film and entertainment journalist and former indieWIRE editor, Andrea has interviewed more actors and directors than she can remember. Her articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Elle, Glamour, Variety, Time Out NY, and the Boston Globe.




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