Directed By: Michael Haneke
Starring: Jean Louis-Trinignant, Emmanuelle Riva
Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths
The year 2012 has seen a stark increase in films dealing with the issue of ageism and dissecting the emotional and mental toll it takes on the generously aged, whether it’s lusting for a revisit to their youth or maintaining a healthy relationship. Now, it’s the turn of acclaimed director Michael Haneke who has an infamous reputation for providing audiences with a bleak outlook on subject matters. Anyone daring to anticipate a melancholic uplift or sugarcoated montages from ‘Amour’.. Prepare yourselves for a harrowing ordeal.
Immersed in a sea of Parisan culture throughout their lifetime, the bond between Georges and Anne (Jean-Louis Trinignant/Emmanuelle Riva respectively) seems near impenetrable. Only provided a mere snapshot of their collective indulgences for music concerts and teaching such an art form in the early exchanges, they are almost oblivious to the fragility that comes with old age. Unfortunately for the classy couple, one standard morning breakfast together triggers a thorough examination of their love and affection.
Anne suffers a stroke out of the blue, with Georges dumbstruck as he realises the playful comments made beforehand ‘fell on deaf ears’. With the right side of her body ravaged by the ordeal, she is reluctantly confined to a wheelchair. Succumbing to the inevitability his beloved wife’s health will steadily decline, Georges is forced to reinvent himself as full time carer. With the added pressure of their distraught daughter Eva (Isabelee Huppert) returning to France, the question arises.. Just how long can Georges cope with such strain on his psyche and witnessing first hand the ‘demise’ of Anne?
‘Amour’ is a devastating film enhanced by Haneke’s no frills direction. No slow motion love scenes or sweeping shots of romantic hotspots here. The director’s static and composed approach makes for unsettling viewing, as long takes of suffering within one crucial setting slowly take their toll on your emotions. It may prove too cold and distant to the touch for many tastes, but the impact is undeniably overwhelming. It could be argued in a time where younger generations abuse the notion of relationships more than ever, this is Haneke’s disguised counter attack depicting such an achingly beautiful relationship built on ‘tough love’ and ploughing on no matter the circumstances.
Equally challenging roles in their own way, Trinignant and Riva are phenomenal. Refusing to play the sentimentality ‘card’, Trinignant’s portrayal of Georges is heartbreaking, as he becomes stifled by his own ordeal emphatically confirmed by his disregarding of Eva’s feelings ‘I have no time for your concerns.’ Physically demanding, Riva’s performance is remarkably precise as every upheaval from her chair, we interpret as a potential last warm embrace with her ‘soulmate’.
With Haneke holding up a metaphorical mirror to the audience as we confront the concept of our own death in the face, the replay value of this film will likely prove miniscule. However, Amour is an unflinching yet unforgettable cinematic experience for better or worse and certainly in this case ‘in sickness and in health’.
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