‘Amour,’ heartbreaking and powerful
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
Winner of Best Foreign Film at the Oscars and winner of the 2012 “Palme D’Or” at the Cannes Film Festival, Michael Haneke’s “Amour” is a brutally honest depiction of an elderly couple struggling with the road towards death.
When Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke that paralyzes her body from one side, her and Georges (Jean Louis Trintignant) must deal with the everyday struggles to maintain their love for each other while also dealing with emotional turmoil, acceptance of life and death and the minuscule problems that become almost war-like conflicts.
Shot with marvelous simplicity while also delivering some powerfully affecting moments by Darius Khondji, the film deliberately takes its time, making the viewer see these characters and their interactions with outside forces like their daughter, a visitor and others.
Throughout the film, Haneke makes good use of single-take scenes that are incredibly affecting. Sometimes they last an entire sequence.
Haneke’s script also brings into question issues of mortality, love, appreciation of life and grappling with the emotional and physical toll that it takes from caring for a loved one.
His script is an unflinching view of those struggles. He also locates the entire film inside the couple’s Parisian home and it is marvelously done. He makes you feel not only like you are stuck with the couple but he creates an almost claustrophobic feel that forces you to experience all this grief with Anne and Georges.
From its chilling opening sequence, the film captures the suffering that the characters endure throughout this ordeal and Haneke’s handling of it is truly phenomenal.
Instead of an original musical score, Haneke uses ambient sound. The flapping of a bird’s wings or the scribbling of a note written on a wooden desk augments the stark reality of it all, creating a sense of loneliness from the rest of the world and, in a way, making their house as much a character as they are.
Though this difficult material can be sentimentalized, Haneke’s portrayal has a raw and honest emotion from its characters, showcasing it as realistically as possible and dealing with it in a way that is, at times, hard to watch but also admirably brave and incredibly powerful.
The cinematography by Khondji is wonderfully muted. It bring the tone of the film to life, which serves as a great contrast to his more vibrant recent films from Woody Allen (“Midnight in Paris” and “To Rome with Love”).
Even though it might not be for everyone, “Amour” is an incredibly powerful story dealing with life, death and love amidst a tough situation. Its masterful filmmaking is haunting in its simplicity yet admirable in its brilliant execution. Its performances are a tremendous showcase for the two actors, and its complex script deals with these remarkable issues in an emotionally affecting way.
Five out of five picks.
Oscar Garza may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.