Writer/Director: Michael Haneke
Starring: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert
The opening scene reveals how the film will end, but there is never a moment of boredom or wandering thoughts throughout Michael Haneke’s latest film. Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trintignant) are retired music teachers. They are both in the eighties and live a simple life in their cozy apartment. After returning home from a piano recital, their back and forth banter is pure evidence of the love and joy they have for each other. They are a beautiful couple that have grown old together and have never lost that initial love they originally had for each other. Their love seems to have only gotten stronger with time.
The morning after the recital, Anne and Georges are eating breakfast when Georges realizes that she is staring into thin air, but not responding to any of his questions. He tries to help her by using a warmth cloth on her face, but she remains unresponsive. He steps into their bedroom to get help and then hears her in the kitchen. Anne comes to and has no recollection of the previous moment when she was unresponsive. They bicker back and forth claiming the other one is playing games each each other. She sees her wet shirt, but can’t recall how it happened. It is determined that Anne has suffered a stroke and the complications leave her wheel-chair bound and paralyzed on her right side. Georges vows that he will never put her back in the hospital or send her to a home. Her physical and mental conditional worsens after she suffers a second stroke. She can no longer talk and has lost all will to live. Despite pressures from their daughter (Huppert), Georges continues to take care of her the best he can as to not break his vow to her.
Amour has been nominated for five Academy Awards including nominations for Haneke for his direction and screenplay, Riva, as well as Best Picture and Best Foreign Film. It also won the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. After you see it, you will understand why. Jean-Louis Trintignant deserves just as much praise as Emmanelle Riva. Her performance may be more physically demanding than his, but it is both of their performances together that make the story work. Their chemistry and partnership together as Anne and Georges make that relationship all the more realistic and heartbreaking. You can just feel the warmth and love between the two characters and feel Georges pain as Anne’s condition worsens.
There is a simple yet beautiful shot of Anne and Georges sitting in a crowded theater early on the film. Haneke’s stillness behind the camera carries throughout the movie. It is never rushed or feels the need to be constantly moving around. Oftentimes, the film is hard to watch because of how sad, truthful, and honest it is. It never shies away from the reality of taking care of an elderly person. Nothing seems to be off limits in depicting this reality. I applaud Riva and Trintignant for being so willing to go to those places and do this kind of work together. If you have ever watched your parent or grandparent in their final stages of life, you may relate to what Georges is going through. I am ashamed to say that I have not seen another film by Michael Haneke, but the aftermath of Amour has left me wanting more. I can only imagine that his other films are just as stunning or haunting as this one was to me.
RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)