L’Amour et La Mort
Two days before I saw the screening for Michael Haneke’s Amour, the film received an accolade of awards at the European Film Awards that included best film, actor, actress, and director. Earlier this year, Amour also received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival. Hearing about these awards set the bar extremely high. I approached this film with excitement, but worried that the hype would exceed the actual quality of the movie.
I am the first to admit my ignorance when it comes to foreign films. I did not know much about Jean-Louis Trintignant or Emmanuelle Riva, whom play Georges and Anne; I came into this movie with as much information as many of the audience members will have in America. But even with almost no information, the movie still worked tremendously, because it is completely driven by emotion. In a film with such few actors, the roles are even more important. Trintignant and Riva exceeded my expectations and really made me believe their roles. They were so good that I cannot imagine either one of them in any other role.
The French-spoken film gains momentum through its non-linear plot that keeps you glued to the screen. After the cops investigate the house and find Anne’s dead body, we go back in time and see Georges and Anne when their lives were normal. Just an ordinary French 80-or-so year old couple. Soon after, Anne falls victim to a stroke and their lives take a one-eighty. We follow them as Anne gets progressively worse. Her right side becomes paralyzed. Georges goes through so much in taking care of her that we begin to accept his every act as a kindness for her.
The directing in the movie was refreshingly different from most films I have watched this year. Heneke deploys several still frame shots that are unique not just because they resemble a play production, but because, even while the camera is still, there is so much intended action going on in every inch of the screen. The still frames also give you the sense that, instead of following the characters through a camera, you are actually sitting in the room with them, watching the drama unfold.
Aside from the performances, the material in the film is critical to its success. I could not help but project my own healthy grandparents into the film. When I saw Georges and Anne suffering together, I pictured my grandparents one day going through the same. I am sure people who have experienced the unfortunate loss of an older family member probably thought of them as well.
We can all relate to death and love. Those emotions are common in our culture, but Amour really taps into our minds in a way that makes it personal for every viewer.
If you are faint of the heart, do not watch Amour. Do not even think about buying a ticket. If you have lost a loved one, consider avoiding it or prepare yourself. But if you want to see a touching movie that will make you contemplate and really move you, then make sure to watch this masterpiece.