Amèlia & Duarte is a stop motion masterpiece that unfolds a dramatic breakup and each party’s quest for closure.
The film begins with an old man entering a room filled with labeled boxes—they shake and twitter, encasing soft whispers. The old man bears them no mind as he shuffles past carrying another box. The camera zooms in to show the label—”Amèlia & Duarte.” The box rattles and the contents arrange themselves on the table. There are a series of pictures of Amèlia and Duarte in various idyllic and romantic locations that flip at an accelerating pace to create almost a flipbook—the camera zooms in and the narrator speaks stating, “this story begins at the end.” A photo of Amèlia and Duarte looking angry flashes. From there, the film depicts the aftermath of Amèlia and Duarte’s breakup, each going to extremes to expel the other.
Amèlia & Duarte is most notable for its clear and distinctive aesthetic–it emulates the work of Wes Anderson in many respects but has certain unique elements. The color palette is very defined–Amèlia is only shown in pinks and reds while Duarte lives in shades of blue. There is also a wealth of patterns that populate the background of every scene–mainly vintage wall paper–that makes every frame visually interesting and allows the film to remain elusive about it’s temporality.
The film cleverly relies on stop motion–alluding back to the flipbook effect created by the stack of photos–as well as creating the sense that the film is made of snapshots, never showing the whole story but only episodes. The technique creates a number of beautiful moments, such as the tearing through layers of patterned wallpaper that occurs at the beginning of the film or the shot of Amèlia folding all of Duartes love notes into boats and having them sail away on the folds of her comforter. Another particularly spectacular moment is when Amèlia tries “dividing Duarte up into complicated equations”–his signature is melted down into swirling potions in glass bottles to create an “anti-Duarte.”
The stop motion also gives the film a certain feeling of emotional distance, infusing it with whimsy despite its potentially painful subject matter. The tone created also ties to the almost-storybook narrator that guides the viewer through the film. The characters of Amèlia and Duarte can be cast as two archetypes in how they process their breakups: Amèlia seeks to destroy all reminders while Duarte wallows in the absences left by Amèlia. The ultimate comment of the film is not just to explore the different ways to grieve lost relationships but more so to show the ways people trick themselves when they are in pain–ultimately, both of their obsessions to rid themselves of the other reveal their lingering feelings. As the film suggests, a break up requires expelling not just physical objects, but also “shared smiles…tears…held hands…sunsets…absences…stubbornness…bitterness…imperfections…longing.”
Amèlia & Duarte ends with each character seemingly gaining closure. There is comfort in this for the viewer, suggesting that a person can get over their pasts lovers in a matter of time. Indeed, the room of boxes labelled with other broken up couples shows the commonality of ‘the breakup’ for all people. However, the films sows seeds of uneasiness with its final image–the door that houses the boxes reads “amores perdidos,” meaning lost loves. The physical manifestation of the lost loves is evidence that they haunt people for always.