Anne (Emannuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are an 80-year-old married couple living in Paris. They are both retired musical teachers, they go about their days together, enjoying one another's companionship. Then Anne suffers a stroke and starts slipping into senility. Her condition worsens and Georges tries to care for her increasing needs himself, buoyed by her fleeting moments where it seems like her normal self returns. But there's only one way this story can end, and George must come to terms with letting go of his life's love.
I will probably come across like a heartless bastard but that is the risk I'm willing to take; I found this movie to be rather boring and was, after an hour, just waiting for Anne to die so that the movie would likewise be at a merciful end. I'm just not a Haneke fan. I didn't like Cache, I didn't like (both) Funny Games, and I didn't like The White Ribbon. In fact, while watching Amour I was reminded of all the reasons I dislike Haneke's style. There was a sequence where a character leaves a room, but rather than follow that character or cut, the camera holds on the scene for an extended period of time, like 40 seconds, until the actor returns. I said, "Oh, I just remember he did the same thing in The White Ribbon, and I hated it then and I hate it now." Want to watch an old man chase after a pigeon for five minutes? Oh, I get it, the pigeon is a metaphor, but did I need five minutes of it? I find Haneke's sense of storytelling to be so glacial and, mostly, a spiral of kamikaze nihilism that's usually distasteful. He's such a cold filmmaker and the idea of him handling a 'love story" seems dubious. It's hard to watch a Haneke film and feel good about it. And that's fine, the world needs downer filmmakers who will tackle serious subjects, but this guy is just not for me. With that said, take everything I recount in my review and analysis with a measure of consideration.
I know my power of empathy is alive and well, so I have to stop and run a diagnostic examination as to why I found it hard to really engage with this movie. I'm sure part of it is my relative youth in comparison to the onscreen couple. Death is still a mostly abstract concept I choose to be blissfully ignorant over. But that can?t be fully it. I went through a similar experience helping to care for my 91-year-old grandmother when she died (she lived with my parents for years before her eventual passing). It's not the same as losing a spouse, naturally, but I do have a relatable entry point. Maybe it was the acting, which was free of any sort of showy actorly tricks we may expect from people reaching the big end. Death scenes have long been a staple of overacting, but underplaying it can also rob the movie of worthy emotional opportunities, and with an artist like Haneke, you may not get many more opportunities to soak up. While I had heard raves about Riva, and make no mistake she is quite good, I cannot help but think, "Yeah... but?." She?s quite convincing at showing the frailty of aging but she?s also practically comatose for half of the movie (I know I'm a Jennifer Lawrence homer, but glad she won the Oscar). And then Haneke tries to get clever with his ending, especially since he had been so straightforward for the previous two hours. The ending, a possible point of confusion, doesn't feel like it fits the exacting, grounded reality I just barely stayed awake for.
Amour is really less about Anne, the one slowly dying, as it is Georges coming to terms with his own selfishness, prolonging his love's life after the point of dignity and mercy. It's about how he comes to terms with the reality that he cannot care for his beloved, that she is too much of a burden, and that she ultimately wants to die and will fight her husband to achieve this wish. Again, this is an extremely dramatic storyline that could have developed some monstrously powerful examinations about end-of-life care. Sadly, I just didn't, well, care too much. The relationship between Anne and Georges is very thinly realized onscreen. I'm sorry but I hate it when a character is afflicted so early in a story and that affliction becomes the stand-in for what should be proper characterization. All I know about Anne is her deteriorating condition. I don't know about her life, her personality, her relationship with her husband before senility sets in. I?m just supposed to automatically feel for her because she's old and suffered a stroke and her husband really cares a lot. Haneke's storytelling has not done an adequate job to involve me. The actors, both quite good, can only do so much. There's a reason that Hollywood has its heroines start the Cough That Symbolizes Terminal Illness when we hit the third act because by that time we've gotten to know them and care about their ultimate plight.
Now, Amour is goes about its death business sin a very sensitive but unsentimental way, which has and will likely emotionally devastate many a viewer. There are serious and hard discussions the movie gives adequate attention to, like how far can one spouse cope with care, when does holding on serve as a detriment, breaking the news to heartsick family members that your loved one isn't getting any better, coming to terms with the inevitable, the tricky debate about what comes next as far as inheritances, and whether the person who is suffering should have a say in their care or lack thereof. It's refreshing that serious decisions are given serious consideration, but like everything else, Haneke drags these out to great lengths that I stopped caring.
I find Haneke to be an outrageously overrated filmmaker of clinical coldness and occasional contempt. Just watch Funny Games to see what the man's opinion is for most movie audiences lapping up your rote thrillers. Better yet, if you?re like me, don't see Funny Games, and don't see The White Ribbon, and don't see Amour. I fully acknowledge I'm out on a critical limb here, cherishing my minority status, but I found this Oscar-winning film to be painfully ponderous and emotionally closed off. I'm happy people can watch Amour and see a great, tragic, affecting love story, because I don't see it. The actors do fine jobs but the characterization is weak, relying upon circumstance and affliction in place of characterization. Maybe, and this is just a harebrained theory, but maybe Haneke dragged his movie out so long to symbolize Georges' journey, so that we too, the audience, felt like when the end came it was a relief. I know for me, it did. Whatever Haneke does next, you can count me out. I'm done with the guy. After all, life?s too short to endure more plodding Haneke films.
Nate's Grade: C+
Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are couple of retired music teachers who have been married a long time and are now enjoying life in their eighties. One morning at breakfast, Anne displays some unusual behaviour and becomes momentarily distant without any memory of doing so. It's transpires that she has suffered a stroke which leads to symptoms of dementia. Georges takes on her care but the very close relationship this couple once shared, is put to it's greatest test.
I'm not one for giving away spoilers but that decision is taken out of my hands straight away by Michael Haneke. He gives us an opening scene of firemen breaking down an apartment door to find the deceased body of an elderly woman lying on her bed with flower arrangements around her. Following this - in bold letters - the seemingly contradictory title of the film is displayed; "Amour" - or the English translation; "Love". It's a powerful opening and from the off-set Haneke shows his confidence by delivering the ending at the very beginning. However, it's the journey up to this point that's the real story behind this film.
When we are introduced to our protagonists, Georges and Anne, we are given a glimpse into their daily lives and how familiar and comfortable they are in each others company. It's obvious that they've shared a lot of time together but it's also this sense of realism that packs the real punch, when the health of Anne rapidly deteriorates.
Set, almost entirely, within the couples' household, Haneke uses the space and setting masterfully. It's subtly done but on slightly closer inspection you can see that the house is in slight disrepair much like the failing health of this elderly couple. Despite time being against these people in their twilight years, time also seems to slow right down in their home. Haneke builds slowly and refuses to be rushed. He lingers long on shots and reactions and refuses to use any form of a music score to manipulate or force you to feel. What you witness is raw and uncompromising and rarely is such reality and authenticity captured on screen.
This a profound and honest exploration of mortality and the nature of ageing; the loneliness involved and the humiliation and inability to maintain dignity. It's heartbreaking to witness the deterioration of an individual and the performance of the Oscar nominated, veteran French actress, Emmanuelle Riva is an astounding piece of acting. Trintignant also puts in some very fine work as the loving husband who finds himself out of his depth and his frustration begins to show in his level of care and compassion.
As is normally the case in Haneke's film's, all is not plain sailing. There's a depth and ambiguity involved. The couples' relationship with their daughter seems distant and strained and there's a recurring, symbolic, appearance of a pigeon that keeps entering the household. On the surface, it would seem that this film is simply an honest commentary of flailing health and fading memories but it also operates at a depth beyond this.
A deserved Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. This is sensitive, emotional and deeply involving filmmaking which tackles a part of life that's rarely touched upon. It's a beautiful piece of work but also the most devastating love story you'll likely to see.
I was happy to correctly predict that Haneke would receive an Oscar nomination for his direction of this film. What Amour is able to accomplish from non-flashy, very deliberately cold direction is a film that does not pull any punches and manages to put the viewer right in the reality that these characters are experiencing. More surprising was seeing Riva be nominated for Best Actress, but I certainly find it to be deserved (It's important to note that Trintignant is fantastic as well). Both actors are doing tremendous work at making this film accomplish what it needs to, without ever having the film feel sappy. It is sad and emotional for sure (various events are the reason why I delayed writing this for so long), but never in a position of betraying the tone that this film is going for in favor of a more traditionally commercial way to handle this subject matter.
Amour is certainly not a film that I definitely need to revisit again, very soon, but that should not take away from how much of an effective piece of filmmaking it is, which deserves the recognition it has received. It is an honest, well-acted, and tough film to watch. It is also a difficult, but more accessible film from Haneke, who loves to challenge his audience.
Aided by remarkable performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant & Emmanuelle Riva, Amour will leave an indelible impression on your soul. Trintignant & Riva not only manage to infuse their characters with unique identities, what remains of a lifetime of idiosyncrasies & mannerisms, but also how their lives are inextricably entwined.
At the onset of Anne's decline, Hanake exhaustively captures the banalities of taking care of an invalid. From a lingering shot of the new mattress-her deathbed-being tested out in their home, to every painstaking second we get of Georges lifting her either off the toilet or back into her wheelchair, viewers cannot escape the weight of Anne's deterioration. We aren't even spared the uncomfortable conversations with family. All of whom have great intentions, but in the end must through their hands up in vexation; unable to decide what to do with their beloved.
Notwithstanding the agony, Amour is in many ways one of the most romantic films that I have ever seen. While films such as Serendipity & Sweet Home Alabama know how to appeal to those who prefer loins-churning young love, Hanake shows the viewer what love is when the energy to reciprocate fades & all you have to cling to is a memory. When the gentle conversations vanish & all that remains is a shell of what once was. It's a heart-wrenching honest look at true love, untouched by sentimentality.
Perhaps most unsettling of all, Hanake also probes into Anne's plight. Into the onerous predicament of needing love, but not wanting to burden it.
For a film so small, its impact is immeasurable.
During one point Anne begs Georges "leave me in peace." At the conclusion of Hanake's masterpiece, you'll be saying to yourself, "were it only that easy."
Now Haneke for the first time turns his attention to physical frailty. In "Amour" (Love), his new film, he looks at bodily decay in a starkly frank but somewhat tender way. We watch as an 80-something woman has two strokes, becomes gradually incapacitated, and wastes away before our eyes. We quite literally watch death occur. We also watch her 80-something husband help her in her last days in their Paris apartment and struggle with the excruciating decision of whether to help her die sooner.
The problem is that there's almost no script. It's just 2 hours of watching this woman struggle to eat, wash, and go to the bathroom. "Amour" says very little about its subject. It just depicts it. There is some artistic and humanitarian value in looking with open eyes at the long slow decline that most of us will go through and the difficulties our loved ones will have helping us in our last days.
But "Amour" doesn't do much with this. Ultimately, it's a thin piece of work. Emanuelle Riva does a good job bringing this woman's suffering to life. Her agony is heart-breaking. But of course this subject matter is going to break one's heart. A serious work of art has to do more than that. Death is tough. Is that what Haneke means to say with "Amour"? I suspect everyone already knows that.