Amour (2012)

Another astonishing Haneke film that deals with psychological and philosophical depth the realities of old age.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review #829

Dir. Michael Haneke
2012 | France | Drama | 128 mins | 1.85:1 | French & English
NC16 (passed clean) for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language

Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Plot: Retired music teachers Georges and Anne have spent their lives devoted to their careers and to each other. Their relationship faces its greatest challenge when Anne suffers a debilitating stroke.
Awards: Won Palme d’Or (Cannes). Won 1 Oscar – Best Foreign Language Film.  Nom. for 4 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay

International Sales: Les Films du Losange

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Old Age, Love, Devotion
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: The Cathay – French Film Festival
First Published: 22 Nov 2010
Spoilers: No

Michael Haneke can do no wrong, can he?  What does a filmmaker hope to do after he or she has won a Palme d’Or? Well, he or she makes another Palme d’Or-worthy film. Haneke follows up his stunning The White Ribbon (2009) with Amour, a film that packs a punch as powerful as any other in his oeuvre.

For the uninitiated, ‘amour’ means ‘love’ in French, but there is nothing romantic about Haneke’s film, except for devotion of the purest kind – the devotion of an old man who chooses to care for his bedridden wife until the end.
But to what end?  And to what kind of end?

Haneke delivers this challenging question, among many others, as his leading cast give performances of the highest calibre.  Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist, 1970; Three Colors: Red, 1994) plays Georges, and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima mon amour, 1959) plays Anne, the unfortunate couple plagued by the realities of old age. Riva, in all honesty, gives one of those brave and essentially human performances that would win an Oscar any year.

Haneke directs with clinical precision his layered screenplay, but leaves room for expression from his cast.  His framing is deliberate, very formalized.  It almost always never moves; only the characters move in his shots.

But when we see a motionless Anne in bed, it becomes a competition of stillness that evokes some kind of tragic impression of total paralysis where the character seems to cease to exist in the frame, while the film ceases to exist as itself, only merely functioning as a recording, not so distant from the kind of aesthetic that made Cache (2005) so troubling to watch.

“Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over.”

Amour reveals with psychological depth both the joy and burden of caring for a loved one.  In one scene, Georges attempts to teach his speech-impaired wife to sing a verse from a song as he tries to lift the gloom and frustration.  

In another scene, Georges answers the door, but there’s no one there, in what turns out to be a masterful exercise by Haneke in building psychological tension through misdirection.

Amour moves slowly but deliberately, but as Isabelle Huppert (who has a supporting role in the film) remarked in a post-screening discussion that I was fortunate to be present in, it is less abstract than Haneke’s previous pictures, thus its universal themes on the human condition is likely to be more accessible and rewarding for the somewhat casual moviegoer.

Haneke’s films may be performance-driven, but a constant theme that runs like an undercurrent in his works is his fascination with the psychology of violence.  Amour is not all about love and romance; it is also an incredibly violent film in that it inflicts mental and emotional distress on the viewer.

The violence of time ravages the body, and while love can transcend anything that comes before it, it also manages to convince that to live is as much a blessing as it is a curse.  

Grade: A




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