Film Reviews and Discussion.
Dir: Michael Haneke
Duration: 127 mins
How do you come to terms when the person you love descends into an irrevocable state of ill health? The heart breaking consequences of a stroke up close.
Sinatra once sang of the days growing short and being in the autumn of the years. If you are fortunate to live long enough, there is a point in life when the voyage ahead is undeniably shorter than the distance traversed. In Amour, Michael Haneke provides a very humane and tactile evocation of the transition from lover to carer in advancing age. It is a painful melodrama, and it walked home with the Palme d’Or award at Cannes earlier this year.
Jean-Louis Trintignant, of My Night With Maud and Three Colours Red fame, stars as Georges, husband of wife Anne (Emmanuelle Riva). They are an elderly couple, who have long been married. The night after attending a classical concert, Anne suffers a stroke at the breakfast table. The consequences are grave, and the couple must confront the decline that follows.
This is not a romantic film in the manner of which English-speaking audiences are brought up on. This is not a tale of attractive people having a wonderful time, with sugary idealised visions of romance. It is a movie that reflects on the trials of love, the often ignored aspects of hardship and suffering. Anne’s reaction to her grim prognosis is blunt, reflecting a very human riposte to the condemning sentence bestowed upon her. In a way, Georges is also provided with a sentence of his own. The pressure on him to abide by Anne’s request that he never put her in a hospital is something which he chooses to honour. He does so knowing that the strain on him, both emotionally and physically, will become more and more gruelling.
In terms of style and influence, the opening concert scene offers passing reference to Kiarostami’s, Shirin (2008), and the remaining film pitches a tone that falls between the signature nomenclature of both Bergman and Tarr. Opting to forego any soundtrack to proceedings, this is austere film making in full flight. Haneke’s ponderous camera revels in the mundane without any real sense of urgency. As a result, this lack of urgency can act as a daring challenge to the patience of the viewer. However, to not see through this challenge will be to miss out on the rewards that are on offer. The accumulative power of this piece creep up in a quiet, innocuous way, leaving a spellbound bewitchment as matters move into the final act.
The performances of both Riva and Trintignant are outstanding. Riva plays Anne with a complete lack of vanity. Her portrayal of a stroke victim is almost beyond adequate words of praise. The conclusion is brilliantly realised and proves that as much consideration has been given to the ending as that of the premise. Emotionally, this is a step up for Haneke, whose own films have often shown a distant brittleness. The White Ribbon was a critical success but lacked real heart. Amour does not share this fate. It is the truest love story one could imagine. Love could not be a more accurate title.
If you like this, try this: Cries and Whispers (1972) – Three sisters. One of whom is gravely ill. Genital Mutilation. Vibrant use of colour. Bergman’s steely essay on familial relationships still has the power to shock and involve.
You can see the trailer for Amour here: