Posted October 14, 2012 by Alex Moss Editor in Films
 
 

Amour


Approaching any Michael Haneke film with a degree of trepidation is always advisable.

Approaching any Michael
Haneke film with a degree of trepidation is always advisable.
He’s a director hell-bent on challenging his audience in
ways few filmmakers dare or even grasp.
Whether it’s the gut wrenching violence of Funny Games or the quiet terror of Cache you know that Haneke is not going to pull any punches. So even when you hear his latest film Amour (Love) won the coveted Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, you know that’s
it’s probably not On Golden Pond.

Georges
(Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva)
are retired musicians. They live a
comfortable life in Paris, just the pair of them, happy and content in each
other’s company. But when Anne
suffers a stroke their lives begin a downward trajectory. With her body and mind rapidly
beginning to fail her, Georges promises he will not put her in a hospital but
take care of her in their home.
Anne’s condition deteriorates faster than expected and despite the help
from occasional visits from a nurse, not to mention the protestations from
their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert), Georges is adamant Anne stay with him. But Anne is ready to leave this mortal
coil and soon becomes increasingly hard to care for.

Amour is a deeply moving story; an honest and often brutal look at the lengths
people will go to for love. It’s
not about some guy trying to save his wife from a bunch of terrorists, it’s not
about choosing to become a vampire to show your commitment to your lover but
about the real and often gruelling torture we suffer in trying to do the right
thing not for ourselves but for those that mean the most to us.

Haneke has achieved a rare feat in cinema; a film that manages to be
both emotionally powerful yet always difficult and unflinching in its
approach. Georges and Anne’s
relationship is typical at first.
The doddering couple reminding each other to take off their shoes,
cooking each other breakfast and at first even Anne’s introduction to a new
wheelchair is a moment they share with a smile. But with each passing scene the relationship shifts, more
and more it becomes a war of attrition; Georges determined to keep Anne by his
side while she wants nothing more than the humiliation and pain to end.

Often shot with Haneke’s trademark locked off camera, scenes unfold at a
natural, sometimes glacial, pace.
At times it feels mundane as we watch Georges solemnly do the washing up
but it’s about him trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy while his entire
world collapses around him. The
duration of the film, bar a two minute intro, is set within the confines of the
couple’s home making it both intimate but seen through Haneke’s almost clinical
approach. He’s never forcing your
emotional response, he doesn’t look to romanticise the situation, we never cut
to close-ups of George’s tears and, if anything, it becomes gruelling to behold
at times.

And yet, behind Haneke’s tough exterior, you feel with Amour that there
is a softer side, a side that wants to subtly instil in his audience a sense of
loss. Sporadically through the
film a rogue pigeon finds its way into the apartment and while Georges is
anxious for it to leave, when he finally catches it, you sense that letting it
go may be the hardest thing for him in the world. These moments, despite the slightly cold approach to the
subject matter, are what result in the genuinely painful emotional kick to the
stomach.

Both leads are sensational.
Riva is the embodiment of sweet old lady at first before slowly
descending into belligerent child.
Her performance is both frustrating and heartbreaking for all the right
reasons. Trintignant meanwhile seems to be
channelling his director. This is
a cold, shut-off performance but when his frustration shows so does his
upheaval and resigned approach to his wife.

Amour is one of those ‘must see’ films, both poignant
and devastating. Haneke continues
to challenge his audience but here you feel he’s showing about as much warmth
as he’s capable of. See it once,
be floored by it, and then try and move on if you can. Like any great romance Amour will leave
you breathless, perhaps not in the way you expect, but gasping none the less.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com