Michael Hanneke’s Amour is a grim Bergmanesque story of two elderly people confronting mortality, human frailty and agonising moral choices.
Emmanuel Riva and Jean Louis Trintignant play Anna and Georges an older Parisienne couple seemingly enjoying a life of financially secure retirement. When Anna begins to exhibit odd behaviour it becomes apparent she has had a stroke. As her condition worsens she becomes bed-ridden but Georges is determined to care for her at home.
This is not a plot driven film, it’s a snap shot of a painful and tragic period in a couple’s life conveyed though a sparse visual style and dispassionate tone. The film mainly consists of awkward drawing-room conversations, people going through mundane everyday activities, scenes of Anna’s harrowing physical decline and Georges attempts to care for her and preserve some of her dignity.
There’s scant exposition or back story, instead the film movingly builds a portrait of Anna and Georges’ lives through photos, artworks and references to their past as classical musicians.
With little soundtrack music or ambient noise, Amour is filled with contemplative silence which gives the film both tension and quiet dignity.
As is common in Haneke’s films, peripheral events within the frame and narrative allude to the story’s major events. Here a suspected burglary suggests an invasion of their lives and something being stolen.
Emmanuel Riva has rightly received a best actress Oscar nomination for her superb performance here. She manages to convey Anna’s suffering without ever lapsing into histrionics or cliché. Trintignant is equally good as the moody, abrasive Georges.
This could have been a tortuous wallow in existential misery and make no mistake it is often heavy going but the film is infused with humanity, moments of humour and the genuine affection the couple shares.
This is a powerful and important film but like much of Haneke’s work a difficult cinema experience.
Nick’s rating: Four stars.
Director(s): Michael Haneke
Release date: 21st February 2013
Running time: 127 mins.
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