Amour (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
16Feb/130

Amour (2012)

It's not easyAndrew LIKE BannerAmour hurts.  I sat there crying uncontrollably at the doomed beauty of love in the face of decay.  We see the human condition laid bare through two loving, empathetic people and are shown right off that the same fate awaits both of them.  They closed themselves off in a sterile environment consisting only of each other and then let fate and time do the rest.

That scenario may sound deranged to some folks but it's because we have grown complacent in our treatment of disease and love.  Alzheimer's has grown more prominent in romantic dramas because it's too enticing for screenwriter's to show how through the power of love you can get your deteriorating partner to remember once more.  There are dramatic confrontations of "Remember!' and then embraces.  What Amour remembers, and how it earns the simplicity and strength of its title (translated: Love), are all of the moments in-between.  The care, screams, long moments of silence, sudden recollection, arguments on proper treatment; it's all here.

Then there's Michael Haneke, camera cold and steady as ever, who needs no special touches to make the reality set in because he's written the truth and needs only present it as plainly as possible.  The truth is Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), who have always been together, now face a brutal and short path to forced separation.  We know their fate because the film opens with local authorities breaking into their home and finding Anne dead, surrounded by flowers, decaying but still beautiful and Georges nowhere to be found.  When we go back and see them we can tell their bond is strong and overpowers the other listeners of a recital and we see, unsurprisingly with what we learn, that both are a bit left of center.

One day she freezes, he jokes, and can't bring her back from her far away realm of nothing.  She comes back, but then has a stroke which leaves her right side paralyzed.  He makes a promise to care for her and never let her waste away in a hospital.  Slowly she goes, and we stay for the rest of her descent.

Many times Haneke masterfully blends memory, music, and stillness into scenes that, in description, do little but say everything.

Many times Haneke masterfully blends memory, music, and stillness into scenes that, in description, do little but say everything.

This film is an antidote to the sterilized rendition of disease we're used to.  There's no romance when Georges is trying to snap Anne out of her first zone-out, only fear.  We're around for every step of her treatment but instead of it feeling like a medial procedural Georges and Anne's personalities shine through.  Haneke just watches.  Anne fights, not in dramatic outbursts, but by struggling to read a book by herself as she has loved to do for years.  Georges tries to give her as much freedom as possible, leading to a wonderful scene where Anne is trying out her new wheelchair and they giggle as she masters it quickly and chases him.

Haneke's writing, always excellent, takes more precedence in this film than his others.  He deals with the idea of love in physical and mental decay in many ways.  Most notably with Anne's daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) who cares for her mother but wants to know what it means for her future.  The sessions between Georges and Eva are filmed like therapy with Eva the patient, leaning forward expecting some breakthrough in that warm brown office, and Georges trying to gently guide her to the logical conclusion.  Then there's the love of her pupils, such as the great pianist Alexandre (Alexandre Tharaud), who fills his visit with energetic music before leaving them to their cocoon.

We watch, we wait, then something happens and the film ends on a sequence both terrifying and beautiful only hinted at.  The audacity of Haneke to tamper with the reality of his creation at this low point is quite a risk but pays off incredibly.  The means I want you to discover, but the message is clear.  Love is never expressed in the obvious ways with kisses and bold declarations but with work, carrying your partner into the shower, forgoing all previous sense of  dignity by redefining it in terms of your love.

The way the final moments seal this will not leave me and I can hear Georges sobs and Anne's too clearly despite the distance I've put between myself and this film.  For them, it means that I will follow you into the dark with all the beauty and inevitability it entails.  Amour is essential, and should not be missed.

Amour - TailAmour (2012)
Screenplay written and directed by Michael Haneke.
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.

Posted by Andrew

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