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Stupeur et tremblements (2003)

Unrated | | Comedy, Drama | 12 March 2003 (France)
A Belgian woman looks back on her year at a Japanese corporation in Tokyo in 1990. She is Amélie, born in Japan, living there until age 5. After college graduation, she returns with a ... See full summary »



(novel), (scenario)
5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview:
Kaori Tsuji ...
Tarô Suwa ...
Monsieur Saito
Bison Katayama ...
Monsieur Omochi
Yasunari Kondo ...
Monsieur Tenshi
Sokyu Fujita ...
Monsieur Haneda
Gen Shimaoka ...
Monsieur Unaji
Heileigh Gomes ...
Amélie enfant
Eri Sakai ...
Fubuki enfant


A Belgian woman looks back on her year at a Japanese corporation in Tokyo in 1990. She is Amélie, born in Japan, living there until age 5. After college graduation, she returns with a one-year contract as an interpreter. The vice president and section leader, both men, are boors, but her immediate supervisor, Ms. Mori, is beautiful and trustworthy. Amélie's downfall begins when she speaks perfect Japanese to clients. She compounds her failure by writing an excellent report for an enterprising colleague. The person she least expects to stab her in the back exposes her work. Thus begins her humiliations. What can become of her and of her relationship with Ms. Mori and with Japan? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama


Unrated | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

12 March 2003 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Bojazn i drzenie  »

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Did You Know?


Based on Amélie Nothomb's real-life experience when she was living Japan in her early twenties in the early 1990s . The real-life events narrated in the film took place at the same time than those narrated in Tokyo Fiancée (2014) which depicts Amélie Nothomb's romance with her then-fiancé Rinri. However, Tokyo Fiancée's director Stefan Liberski set his film in the early 2010s. See more »


In the copying room, the hands of the clock on the wall behind Amelie do not move first at all, even though several minutes should have passed. A couple of hours later they are shown to have moved. See more »


Followed by Tokyo Fiancée (2014) See more »


Goldberg Variations
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performed by Pierre Hantai, harpsichord
See more »

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User Reviews

Would love to know what Japanese think about this
22 February 2009 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

I watched Fear and Trembling mainly because I like Sylvie Testud, and also because I am studying French and wanted to watch a French-language film. It turns out most of the movie is in Japanese -- other than the main character's internal monologue (which is in French, of course).

The plot involves a Belgian woman (Amelie) who loves Japan (having spent her early childhood there) and who obtains employment at a huge corporation in Tokyo. Through various cultural misunderstandings, she continually gets demoted until her job mainly involves cleaning toilets.

The film depicts late 80's / early 90's Japanese corporate culture as unbelievably hierarchical, brutal, inefficient and de-humanizing. I suspect this was exaggerated, for comic and dramatic effect. And, for the sake of the Japanese people, I hope so.

My only two complaints about Fear and Trembling are (i) the over-use of the voice-over narration to tell the story, and (ii) the fact that we do not get any hint of Amalie's life (or anyone else's life) outside the office.

With respect to the latter point, another commenter noted "In the novel Amelie Nothomb writes : this could be leading to think I had no life outside the office, which is wrong. but for a schizophrenic reason, when I was at job in the 44th floor toilets of the yumimoto company I couldn't think of myself as the same person respected and loved by friends outside."

Overall, it was entertaining, thought-provoking, and by the end, strangely moving. Both my wife and I got a bit misty-eyed at the end - I was a bit surprised that the movie drew such sudden emotion out of me. Definitely worth seeing.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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