¨What would you say if no one came to your funeral? ¨
Amour is French for love, and in this film Austrian director Michael Haneke delivers a unique love story where he defines what love really means in a very unique way. This is not an easy film to watch; it is slow and deals with some unpleasant subject matters to think about such as mortality, old age, confronting death, and sickness. We all dream of finding the perfect soul mate with whom we can grow old together, and many times Hollywood has painted this beautiful romantic portrayal of it, but Haneke shows us what it really means to grow old with the person you love and how difficult it can be to see a loved one go through a slow and painful death. Haneke decides to paint us a different picture of love as he takes us through the indignities of becoming old and seeing the person you love slowly facing death. Amour is a remarkable film and it shows us how love can be severely tested at times, but I also found it to be very pessimistic and difficult to watch. You can enjoy the film for its craft and artistic value, but it is not one you can sit through and say you enjoyed it. The problem I had is that the film is a little too pessimistic as we see this old couple who obviously love each other very much being tested by a severe illness. I have personally experienced a similar disease in my family as my father suffered a severe stroke and was paralyzed on his right side in the same way the main character of this film was. He still can’t speak, but has confronted his illness with a positive attitude. In the end, life can throw harsh things our way and love can be tested, but how we choose to confront those difficulties is what makes love stand out above all. I preferred the much positive French film, Intouchables, where the main character faces his disabilities with a totally different approach. Old age is tough and comes with several indignities, but love conquers all.
The plot is very minimalistic and simple as we are introduced to the everyday life of an old couple in the early 80´s who seem to be enjoying each other’s company. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are retired music teachers living in Paris. They live a pretty simple life as they spend most their time in their home talking about life. They have recently been to a theater to listen to a former student of Anne´s, and seem to have enjoyed it very much. Georges mentions that the next day he wants to buy his CD now that he has become so famous. While he is talking, Anne seems to black out for a couple of minutes. Once she comes back to her normal self she has no idea of what happened and Georges decides to take her to the hospital. The doctors decide to operate her, but things don’t turn out well. When they return from the hospital several days later, Anne is on a wheelchair and has her right arm and leg paralyzed. Georges watches out for her with a great amount of love and patience, but she feels like a burden on him. She makes Georges promise that if she ever suffer another attack, he mustn´t take her to the hospital again. As Anne´s illness begins to take a toll on her, the couple´s love for each other begins to be tested.
The film is mostly shot in long and static takes and is very silent at times. There isn’t much going really as we see how slowly old age and illness begins to disturb their daily routines. The film can be upsetting for some viewers and emotionally draining. Michael Haneke is known for making some strong films (Funny Games, The White Ribbon, and Cache) and has received several awards including Academy nominations. In Amour he has received a nod for best director, original screenplay, and best film. He will probably win for best foreign film, but is competing against Hollywood´s top films as well. This is probably his most critically acclaimed film to date as many critics are calling it his masterpiece. It might be simple, but at the same time he uses plenty of poetic imagery (like the scene with the pigeon which many people have made different conclusions about). I really don’t like his dark and pessimistic vision of life, but he does have a talent for stirring up debate and tackling difficult subject matters. I have to mention that the two lead actors were absolutely phenomenal in this film. Both Riva and Trintignant were mesmerizing in their realistic portrayal of this old age couple. They carry the film and make it tolerable despite the material. Riva has also been nominated for her powerful performance here and could upset Lawrence in the Oscar race. I´d like to quote a critic who best describes this film as ¨a graphic portrayal of the unfunny endgame we´re all fated to play.¨ I can´t really recommend this film, it´s not easy to watch, but I can see why many critics liked it.