Despite it’s title, Amour is not a movie you can love. That’s because it isn’t really just a movie. It’s a film. Cinema. A piece of moving art. Powerful, depressing, slow moving art.
Directed by Michael Haneke, Amour won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, is the front runner to win Best Foreign Film and also nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Whether it deserves to be nominated for Best Picture, while also being up for Best Foreign Film, is something I could debate jusqu’à ce que les vaches viennent à la maison!
The story follows a longtime married couple, Georges and Anne, who are in their eighties. They live a nice quiet life in Paris as retired music teachers. One day at breakfast, Anne has an attack. After tests and an operation, it’s diagnosed as a stroke that she will never recover from. The couple’s bond of love is severely tested as Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) must take care of Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), who’s now paralyzed in her right arm and right leg.
Anne’s situation becomes worse as it later affects her speech and causes her to slowly lose her mind as well. Even worse for Anne is the humiliation she feels as her loving husband must feed her, clothe her and clean her. Georges adores his wife and his devotion to her is nothing short of saint-like, but even he starts to feel despair as their living situation becomes unbearable. Despite all of these hardships, he refuses to take to Anne to a “home”, even when their estranged only child (Isabelle Huppert) demands that he should.
Haneke has a gripping subject here, but the slow moving plot and his attention to unimportant details, kill some of the emotional momentum. Case in point: the ending. Without giving it away, the climax took me by surprise and fascinated me. That is, until at least ten more minutes of rien happened afterwards.
Even with these slip-ups, Amour is a fine film. Haneke isn’t afraid to force this difficult issue in our face. Getting older, dying with dignity and long-term companionship are all looked at through his intense magnifying glass. It’s two hours of uncomfortable reality, only made watchable because of the leads’ brave performances. As outstanding as Riva is as the ailing Anne, I believe Trintignant might actually give the better performance as put-upon Georges. Throughout the film, you can at least be happy that they look like unconditional lovers who would do anything for one another.
It seems that anything in the French language sounds beautiful and important. Amour‘s plot may not be beautiful, but it is important.
I give AMOUR *** out of ****.