Then race was also a theme. There was a feeling of being trapped in ones lot in life theme. This was highlighted by the Collector scene we saw Anne act in.
I think he chose this approach to emphasize the tunnel vision perspective of the character highlighted in each scene.
There is a theme of looking at the lives of minorities, the Algerians, and Africans. I was surprised by the treatment of the Amadou by the police because black racism is very American and not usually thought of as happening in France–at least in my experience. However, I have spent quite a bit of time in France and have witnessed the tension between the Arabs and the French; I’ve even been on the receiving end of an Arab’s agression. My friends had to explain I was American and didn’t understand him to ease his frustration. So, watching the Arab guy harass Anne Laurent on the train was a familiar scene. On the other side, obviously France needs to be more sensitive to the multicultural communities living withing the melting pot of Paris. The mix is what makes Paris so beautiful.
So besides minority suffering there is a reflection of the other side of society and its suffering. I would say that the child being tortured upstairs from Anne, and the younger brother of Georges who seems to have problems are indicators of bourgeois suffering. Also, Anne has personal problems dealing with wanting children and Georges not being there when she needs him, as we witnessed in the grocery store. These problems seem minute in comparison with the problems of the minorities, who deal with poverty, wrongful accusations, and police brutality.
In many ways the characters are all very similar. I don’t see that Anne is more together than the Algerian lady, whose name I think is Maria. The difference is that Anne has a career that she makes it in whereas the Algerian lady does not. As people, they could be equally successful. Georges and his younger brother may not be near as noble of heart as Amadou and his family yet, they have less problems with the police and other bias.
The characters intertwine at the beginning and then go on about their separate lives. This serves to make a comparison between the differences in their disparate lives. Most ensemble films I’ve seen show the separate lives of people who eventually intertwine. This film has the opposite structure.
I notice manipulation when it occurs. Certainly music guides my emotions, or at least the ones I’m supposed to have during a scene. I do find it a bit irritating to be manipulated. In the movie The Butler, which was awesome, by the way, I did feel emotionally manipulated. I was aware that my emotional strings were often pulled. I felt that way when I was reading The Kite Runner and at first called the novel junk fiction putting it in the same class as The Da Vinci Code. Since then I’ve re-assessed my judgment on what is junk fiction. Nonetheless, if I am distinctly aware that my strings are being pulled, and possibly of the exact mechanism pulling them, there does seem to be a criticism to be made. So this is the same for horror movies and others where the viewer is aware of being manipulated.