Written and Directed by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Sassi’s Star Rating: 4/5
Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winning Amour is an important film that offers much more than a portrait of what it means to age in our modern world. As its title suggests it is about the intensity of the love between Georges (Trintignant) and Anne (Riva), a refined couple in their eighties (both retired music teachers) with a passion for life and each other.
Amour has won a list of coveted awards, including the top prize at Cannes and was nominated for both best picture and best foreign film at the 2013 Academy Awards. It succeeded in the latter, adding the best foreign language film Oscar to the Amour mantelpiece. In it Haneke asks the question of how you deal with the death of someone you love? As in his other films (The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher) he allows the audience to draw their own conclusions. In this way we feel as though we are a ‘fly on the wall’ or a ‘pigeon on the windowsill’ of Georges and Anne’s home, and that we are permitted to view the gritty reality of how this period of their lives unfolds. In fact, of how this period in all our lives may be destined to unfold; the idea of which is very confronting and may prove to be a bit too truthful for some.
For we observe the end of Anne’s life, and certainly a demise in the quality of both their lives. Once Anne suffers a stroke, we watch this vibrant and creative woman battle to maintain her dignity amongst the stark truths of her condition, and how Georges manages to care for her at home as she deteriorates. The intimacy between the couple remains in the form of their absolute love and devotion to each other, even though physical closeness takes on whole new meaning as Georges and Anne negotiate his new role as her full-time carer. The couple’s commitment to each other is inspirational, and perhaps typical of their generation.
The film raises valuable questions, which are refreshing in terms of the Western trend of placing so much emphasis on youth. For example, an insensitive nurse highlights the importance of elderly patients being respected by their paid caregivers. We are invited to empathise with the range of emotions felt by Anne and Georges, and are moved by Georges’ compassion and loyalty, and his wife’s pride and despair. Amour forces us to consider what lengths we might be prepared to go to in order to care for a loved one who is suffering unending pain and misery. How might we react due to the depth of our love and dedication?
Eva (Isabelle Huppert) plays Georges and Anne’s daughter, and is also a musician. She lives abroad and is not able to visit her parents often. On one of her visits she angrily questions whether the way her mother is suffering is the best that society can offer? With all our technology and apparent advancement, still, it seems, that ageing and death is often a painful and agonising ordeal. Perhaps this is not always the case, but the events of the film paint it as fairly grim.
There are not many actors in this film, and it is probably best described as a two-hander due to the brilliant combination of veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. The purity with which they play Georges and Anne underlies the film’s true brilliance. Riva, who turned 86 on Academy night, narrowly lost the best actress Oscar to Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), and portrays Anne with accuracy and honesty. She succeeds in giving a voice to real-life characters like Anne and Georges, as does Trintignant.
The impact of Amour occurred to me overnight. After an evening screening I was left somewhat numb by the stark reality and truth of the film. The suffering portrayed was familiar to me, and at first I questioned what the film had taught me personally. This is Haneke’s style as a filmmaker. He doesn’t seem to want to engineer the audience’s reaction. He presents the story as he sees it and we are left to deduce what we may.
The symbolism of the dream I had that night is probably irrelevant, suffice to say, that I woke with a different perspective about the certainty that one day, in the future, my death would come, and that like Anne, my journey as it drew me nearer may not be altogether pleasant. The film reminded me to live with compassion, but also to appreciate every day, as death is coming for all of us, and that is fine, but it would be a shame not to make the most of it while we wait.
A moving and realistic portrait of life and death, serving as a reminder to enjoy every moment for the gift that it is.
Amour, in cinemas now!
Category: Film & TV