Directed by Michael Haneke
With Jean Louis Trintignant Emmanuelle Rivas and Isabelle Huppert
The French film Amour is not romantic film about love. But the bond of love between the two Elderly Parisians in this gripping film is tested beyond most limits imaginable.It is pure love stripped of any Hollywood trappings.
Amour, directed by Michael Henecke, is not an easy film to watch. It graphically deals with mortality: the indignities and decline of aging. But this unsettling film will affect you emotionally long after you have left the theater. Amour has won the Palme d’Or for best picture and at least a dozen more awards, including the Golden Globes.
Anne (Emanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean Louis Trintignant) are a cultivated octogenarian couple who live in a fine Paris apartment. When the film opens, they are enjoying a concert. They go home, chatting amicably. At breakfast the next morning Anne goes blank for a few minutes. Georges doesn’t know what to do, but she soon regains consciousness. They see a doctor. Apparently she suffered a stroke. She then has surgery which leaves her right side paralyzed.
She returns to the apartment in a wheelchair. She forcefully demands that George promise he will never ever take her to a hospital again. Amour examines the bonds of love between the couple as Anne begins her downward slide.
Georges becomes her caretaker, lovingly helping her to her wheelchair, cooking and cutting her food for her. He is determined to keep his promise to her. Their daughter
Eva ( Isabelle Huppert), a self absorbed woman, insists he put her in a ‘home.’ He won’t hear of it. He has no time for his daughter. He is alone in his grief and can only watch as Anne descends to helplessness.
Soon Anne goes from manual wheelchair to an electric one. Initially there is physical therapy, then nurses, sponge baths, bed sores, and finally diapers. Anne cannot move or speak. She is confined to her bed, undergoing the indecencies that accompany it.
Nearly all of Amour is filmed inside the apartment. Haneke wants us to feel how totally confined Anne and Georges are. The camera lingers on them as they eat, sleep, and bathe. He wants us to feel how onerous everything is to Anne.
Emmanuelle Riva is magnificent as she shows Anne’s initial shame at being helpless to how she struggles to emit sounds to communicate at the very end. She is transformed from an elegant woman to an angry invalid. It is truly remarkable how Riva captures this decline.
Jean Louis Trintignant, who is a French film icon, quietly shows Georges’ concern, his frustrations, his bewilderment. He dutifully responds to Anne’s each and every need. There is never a false note in his towering performance.
Director Haneke does not include background music which might tell the audience how they should feel. The filming is restrained and at times Amour feels like a documentary. It makes the viewer regard his own humanity. It can be agonizing to watch, but it is a realistic look at what may lie ahead. Things happen to secure people like Georges and Anne and everything changes.
Is it better to die young and quickly or to live a long life then slowly lose your abilities one by one? Amour is potent filmmaking about the hardships and often horrors of aging, something usually not addressed in the cinema. This honest and totally unflinching film will make you think.