Amour is the story of an elderly married couple. We follow Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emanuelle Riva) as they live their quiet retired life. Everything seems fine until the moment when Anne does not respond to Georges and seems to be mentally absent. A few moments later she comes back to her senses but has no knowledge of what just happened.
The doctors diagnose a blocked artery as the cause for this and Anne undergoes surgery – which unfortunately goes wrong and leaves her partially paralyzed. The rest of the film is Georges caring for his wife and what immense sacrifice the title giving Amour demands from people.
The Haneke way of asking questions
Michael Haneke is a very particular director hell-bent on not being pigeon-holed. His mentality is that the Hollywood blockbusters are simplifying real life, presenting us with quick moral judgments and therefore thinking of their audience as stupid. On the contrary Haneke strives to not lecture us but instead asking questions.
With The White Ribbon (2009) I had a very frustrating experience as the movie felt constructed in a way to feature as many shocking human moments as possible strung together. It is entirely possible to watch The White Ribbon’s story of horrible moment after horrible moment as some kind of comment or “asking questions” but to me it was just the collage of horrible events. It did not connect with me at all and I just saw the terrible scenes with complete emotional detachment.
So when I went into Amour I was very careful not to be overly prejudiced. Contrary to The White Ribbon I never had a problem with Haneke’s portrayal. Probably this movie is much more focused on two characters instead of an entire town. We go through all the ups and (mostly) downs with Georges and Anne. The movie feels almost documentary in its depiction of the trials that the lover have to endure. And because it is not an abstract comment on pre-WW I violence the uncommenting nature of the movie was never a problem for me. Both Georges and Anne feels much more like characters whereas in The White Ribbon I had the feeling of watching 1-dimensional reproductions of something that had been a character once.
The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the acting. Both Trintignant and Riva deliver performances so well you never see them “acting” they are just their characters and I would love to see Riva getting the Oscar tomorrow.
The thematic and nature of the film make it very tough to talk at length because this movie deserves to be talked about but I think the product speaks for itself and doesn’t need deconstructing of all its aspects – aside from the fact that if there would be an Oscar for “best horror scene in a movie that isn’t a horror movie” it would certainly go to Amour. The only gripe I had was the opening scene as it kinda gave away the ending as well as the last 10 minutes which were a bit too Haneke-y for my taste.
The movie addresses a lot of things our society is facing and does not shy away from portraying the characters in embarrassingly uncomfortable scenes. Some people might think of Haneke as cynical but I don’t see a cynic when one portrays scenes how they can actually be (and are for a lot of times). The title giving Amour comes from Georges constant care for Anne despite all those humiliating moments. It shows that true love is not so much about horse-riding in the sunset or sparkling at the wedding but sticking to your partner when things get really tough.
And finally it is just refreshing to get a movie nominated for Austria that isn’t about Hitler.