Stupeur et Tremblements

Stupeur et Tremblements is a movie from 2003. It tells the story of Amelie, who takes on a job as interpreter in a Japanese company, and her downfall. Everything she does, she does wrong. Instead of obeying her bosses every command, outspoken or not, she speaks up. Instead of keeping quiet while serving coffee, she speaks with the clients, and causes them to leave. Instead of learning her job, the Japanese way, she only does what she was told. A true disaster, not only for her, but also for some of her colleagues. She thinks her direct boss is her friend, because she talks to her, while in reality she only keeps a 先輩・後輩 relationship, and treats Amelie badly.

In one of the first scenes, she is asked to write a letter of invitation to a client, which she does. Though she was not told to hand it over to the boss right away. When she approaches him, letter in hand, he tears it apart. Do it again, he tells her, and she does. He is fed up with her, holds a grudge on her, and whatever she does is not good enough. In fact, even the lowest work is too difficult for her, and she commits mistakes. But no one tells her what exactly she does wrong. She is transferred from one position to the next, but she keeps going the way she is going, causing more and more trouble.

What happens in the movie, and what really went wrong, is not that she is foreign. She realizes after the disaster with the letter of invitation, that she has learned everything, she took numerous tests, learned technical vocabulary, and yet it was not good enough for the company. What she never studied was how to behave at the workplace, what is important, what has to be avoided at any cost, and how to behave in general. This is really what led to her downfall. Of course she made mistakes at her job, but this alone was not the problem I think, because she tried her hardest to avoid them. But she still didn’t learn how to behave before her boss, and her colleagues, But because she never really said “I’m sorry”, even what went wrong was not her fault, would probably have made the situation a little better for her.

What she never learned, even after 1 year, was how to behave. She became a victim, she was mistreated, but she kept going. But what is the lesson to be learned from this movie? If it happened to me what happened to her, I would not only speak up, but yell at my boss what he thinks he is, and if he thinks he can do better why would he need me for the job in the first place? If he is not satisfied with the ways things go, then he should tell me, and if not he should shut his pie-hole. Yes, I would have done that, no matter the consequences. Because I’m not Japanese and I, too, wouldn’t have thought about learning how to behave at a workplace, how to do things so that people are satisfied, that not the individual counts but always the hole team, and that whatever I do and say influences everyone, and comes down at my boss. Not so much because I can’t lower myself, and I would do that without problem, but because I can’t stand injustice. This is not what I learned, and that is not how it works in my country, where it is normal to point out mistakes, even to ones boss. This leads to problems, for oneself in the first place, and to others in a country where this can be considered a sin.

I, too, would have seen myself as a martyr. I would ask myself, how could it have come to this and that situation, without realizing that it was my deeds and acts and things said. Rather it would have been the boss, the co-workers, the weather or even aliens, but not me. I would have to learn, and I would have to adapt to the ways of others, and respect how it is, swallow the pride, and admit mistakes, do more than is expected from me and show my worth to the team, the bosses and to the company. This can be learned, and it doesn’t mean giving ones own inner self up, just to fit in. Whether it is worth doing or not is another question, and this is just a hypothetical situation for me at least. But others have experience, and are maybe in some way Amelie, who wants to fit in but couldn’t.

If you have time, watch this movie. It is a little long, almost 2 hours, but it is worth every second.

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