Glass Half Empty
Dufayel paints a copy of Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party every year, but he might as well just be painting the word METAPHOR in big block letters on a bright yellow canvas. He says he has the most trouble capturing the look of the girl with the glass of water. This girl is totally a stand-in for Amélie, and Dufayel and Amélie frequently have thinly veiled exchanges about this girl in the painting, when what they're really talking about is Amélie herself. Here are just a few of Dufayel's greatest hits:
- She's in the middle, yet she's outside.
- Maybe she's just different.
- When she was little, she rarely played with the other kids. Maybe never.
- Maybe her thoughts are with somebody else. […] More likely a boy she saw somewhere and felt an affinity with.
- You mean she'd rather align herself relating to an absent person than build relationships with those around her?
- Maybe she tries third to fix other people's messy lives.
- What about her? Her own messy life? Who'll fix that?
By the end, though, Dufayel admits, "I was too hard on the girl with the glass." Well, was he? If he hadn't said everything he did, Amélie might not have taken the risk she finally did, and she might have remained by herself instead of with Nino.
Talking about the girl in the painting rather than about Amélie herself is one more way in which these characters don't quite face up to their real troubles—they have to speak in metaphors rather than just tell each other honestly what they think. But maybe there's something to that. Art, after all, is something that helps us understand ourselves and each other better. Maybe the Renoir painting tells Dufayel and Amélie things about themselves that they wouldn't otherwise know.
After Amélie ends up with Nino, Dufayel gets the look of that girl right, and he never needs to paint it again. He moves on to something new.