JEAN-LOUIS TRINTIGNANT EMMANUELLE RIVA ISABELLE HUPPERT
German director Michael Haneke is certainly revered as an auteur film maker with subjects that push viewers' minds to places they probably didn’t want to go in the first place, but leave them with something they didn’t have before his films. Haneke won an Oscar in 2009 for his black and white foreign film The White Ribbon. Haneke also wrote and directed the 2007 sadistic horror film, Funny Games, starring Naomi Watts. That was an unforgettable film about two young men who torture a family. Amour, in its own way, is unforgettable, but not because of violence; it’s subject matter on the end of life forces the viewer to examine their own mortality, whether you want to or not.
82 year old Georges (Trintignant) and his 85 year old wife Anne (Riva) live in an old apartment in Paris. They are both healthy until Anne takes a turn for the worst. Georges promises his wife he won’t send her back to the hospital, which she fears, and won’t send her to a nursing home. They lived very independently and now he will take care of her on his own as much as he can, despite resistance from their daughter (Huppert). Day by day Georges watches Anne, who begins to lose functioning on her right side, become more desperate to die. He is faced with an awful reality that things will only get worse for the both of them.
In some ways the title is brutal because how much we love someone can be the greatest burden when we are helpless in watching them suffer. Haneke uses silence, long takes and cinematic bitterness to metaphorically scream his message of how brutal the end of life is. I can appreciate the message and many of the reasons for shooting this as he did; however, I compare Amour to a film like One True Thing, which is also about a family dealing with inevitable death, but which delivers a far more powerful message. “Put your- self in my shoes,” Georges begs his wife as she makes clear her wishes to die.
Riva, who is 85, delivers the kind of performance you don’t forget because it’s astonishingly powerful. Both Riva and Trintignant deliver heartbreaking performances that depend on both their own personal frailty and their power as actors. I think the idea of secluding these two in this damp, dark and depressing home where they rarely go out or interact with others (including the sparse visits from family) paints this story in an unrealistic light from my own personal experience. I haven’t been to Europe, so perhaps people live and die this way, but it seemed as if Haneke purposely isolated them for effect rather than reality.
Final Thought – Well acted, but extremely difficult to sit through.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Amour is a finely made film that is excruciating to watch because it puts you directly into the experiences of both the dying and their caretakers. Michael Haneke, the writer/director attends to every detail in allowing us to see a loving couple’s life together, the sudden illness of one, and then the upheaval of their world as the illness and the medical accoutrements that go with it eventually predominate. The title of the film is apt in its capturing the essence of an ordeal this couple goes through together.
To some extent, Anne’s (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges’ (Jean-Louis Trintignant) experiences overlap in their dismay, puzzlement, and mystification about what has happened. But each is a separate personality, and Anne feels mortified to lose her independence and dignity. Foremost in Georges’ mind is his wish to care for her and do whatever he can to please her. As time goes on, however, and Anne’s condition worsens, she plunges deeply into an even greater sense of mortification. Eventually, Georges is exhausted by the ever-increasing demands and emotional drain on his resources, and we move with them into a state of desperation.
The couple’s daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) comes by periodically to visit, which turns out to be more stressful than comforting, partly because Anne does not wish even her daughter to see her and partly because Eva is not equipped to express compassion and comfort. She naively thinks there must be someone or something that will be able to resolve the problem, and is angry when her father reminds her that they are doing everything they can.
As is typical, family members never seem to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the illness openly and frankly. If Anne, for instance, begins to wonder aloud about the wisdom of continuing to live without any quality of life, Georges quickly changes the subject and runs off to some caretaking task.
The two main actors, Trintignant and Riva, are phenomenal in portraying the wide ranges of expression called for in their roles, especially Riva, who is uncanny in conveying the physical manifestations of a stroke. Huppert, as always, is a powerful force when she is on the screen.
I like the way the film ends, which, paradoxically, is one that offers an alternative, an out for an intolerable situation. To me, it shows strength of character as well, and makes me wish for an easier solution for the many, many people who find themselves in just such a fix. Grade: A