Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud, William Shimell, Ramon Agirre, Rita Blanco, Carole Franck, Dinara Droukarova, Laurent Capelluto, Jean-Michel Monroc, Suzanne Schmidt, Walid Afkir and Damien Jouillerot.
Amour is the new movie from the Austrian filmmaking master, Michael Haneke. It was previously awarded the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes while recently, it got 5 Academy Awards nominations. Watching this movie last year was definitely one of my best and most memorable experiences ever. The way it shows the reality of life, the meaning of true love and how far a person will go for his loved one to protect him/her is impressive. Now Haneke is known for his particularly cold and distant filming, the way he shows the most ugliest, violent and harsh realities of a human being or society in general is very tough viewing for anyone. His filming technique is marked by still framing of camera on characters that increases the impact of whatever its happening on screen as Haneke tries to make his audience uncomfortable by confronting them to those things. One of the reasons why this movie was applauded at Cannes was definitely for the reasons Haneke used his exact same filming technique but for a different purpose. Amour as in Love in French, tells us the story of this elderly couple, Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trintignant). They are these rich, retired music teachers living together in an apartment while they have a daughter too, Eva (Huppert) who lives abroad with her husband and children. Now the movie focuses on this couple only, there daily life and their affection towards each other. The movie is basically about them only, it is visible by their way of living and through their conversations how much they still love each other even though great amount of time have passed. One day, Anne gets a stroke that leaves one side of her body paralyzed. Her declining health and her agony while Georges' undying and unbroken affection towards his beloved wife even in such harsh times is what the main focuses for the most part.
Amour begins with a shot of some firemen breaking into an apartment to find the corpse of Anne. The shot left me startled, i was familiar with the plot and knew that this ending for Anne was inevitable but still it made me wonder how exactly things led to this end. In a very brilliant shot next, we meet both Anne and Georges as they attend a concert of one of their students. The camera is fixed still at the stage and everyone is visible sitting in their seats. Its a brilliant shot that lasts for a while and its a wonderful way to introduce these lead characters. From that moment till they reach their apartment and from there, how they continue their daily routine, every single aspect of that is carefully portrayed by Haneke and performed wonderfully in a very realistic way by both the actors who shares stunning chemistry. Things go on like this until one day when both Anna and Georges are having breakfast and suddenly, Anne goes silent like a statue. Georges tries to get a grasp of what is wrong with her, she doesn't responds to anything Georges says or does. When she comes to, she have no memory of what just happened to her. After the surgery for carotid artery blockage and a stroke after that, Anne's condition gets completely worse leaving her paralyzed and bound to wheelchair/bed. Eva visits a few times and she always insists her father to send her mother to either hospital or care center but Georges is determined to take care of her himself as he promised her. Georges himself isn't that strong of a man, he is old too but he somehow manages to take care of her every need even though it requires a lot of energy to do so. Georges' endurance and his love for Anne is daily tested but he is steadfast against all the pain and suffering his wife's condition is causing him as well as seeing her suffer herself makes him feel.
Its an astonishing and astounding achievement for Haneke to have captured such intense and realistic moments and impressions that makes the film viewing experience much more indulging than it would have been otherwise considering it has such a simple plot. The screenplay for this movie considering the length and lack of dialogues for the most part and abundance of pain and suffering in the others could have been a very boring or tiring experience but the little thing Haneke gets right regarding the simple human actions in certain situations or his filmmaking artistry over the technical side of it makes this movie a masterpiece. The way he uses certain scene as symbolism for what is about to come in their life or how a certain thing is going to play a part in their own life is amazing. One big example is how much this little world that they have together is important to them and how much an intrusion or someone breaking into their life from outside disrupting that pattern is unbearable for them. That later plays a part for Georges when he doesn't listen to his daughter's repeated suggestion for letting Anne get a proper treatment at the hospital or care center. Georges even hires a caretaker but he immediately fires her when he sees her not treating Anne properly. His promise to her is one thing and seeing his loved one get further humiliated in her own humiliation is another. Emmanuelle Riva gives a masterful and most brilliant performance i have seen from anyone of her age. She is still able to convey some of the most powerful, strongest and most breathtaking performance that one wont expect an actor of her age to do. She gets the slowly declining health of Anne very right, it is she who portrays it convincingly without use of any make up. She is able to make us convince of the pain and suffering and almost unbearable agony she is going through. In a scene when she tries to talk to Eva, it was most difficult for me to see her struggle in such way to speak and Haneke keeps that shot going for several minutes. Riva knows she is in hands of a competent filmmaker who has this mastery over such painful sides of human beings isn't afraid to bare it all on the camera. I mean no one gets those scenes right, the way Anne feels humiliated when she slowly loses control of her body or how much she wants Georges to not get too much involved with her is brilliant.
Amour has this claustrophobic atmosphere, of course the movie is shot only in this apartment and what keeps it going is these two characters, their actions and interactions. Haneke's direction, the cinematography, lighting i mean every single technical aspect of this movie is brilliant. There is a wonderful dream sequence involving Georges and his painful memories of the past that strangles him, a symbolism to the coming event of course is done superbly. There is also a pigeon sequence that i wont spoil it for you since it shares direct symbolism with what happens in the end, the bravest thing Georges do for Anne and for himself. Haneke's same old use of no score, long shots and non-sentimental approach however it detaches a viewer from feeling any sort of sympathy for anyone on screen, he uses it here for much more profound results. The pain and agony that is shown in Amour is liberated of such repulsive reactions from us because he shows love which is the most portrayed, discussed and important part of not only a person's life but the over-abundance use of it in many forms of art, from music to movies to literature and paintings. We are mostly familiar with the superficial love. Haneke shows us what love actually is, he confronts us this time with love in a much more gentle and tender way, which doesn't compromises his style in fact it helps a lot on many levels. The decision that Georges makes is something that in any other movie would have been horrific and completely insane but here, it is something that you imagine him doing for Anne because that is how far people who have lived their entire life together in pure love for each other would do. It is something that isn't easily explainable in words but it is something that is easily understood because its love and anything can happen in it. Watching Amour is like watching a classic romance, in a sense that Haneke confronts us with a different kind of love. Both Anne and Georges shares a history that we see through their photo albums and their conversations involving some of their most memorable moments. It is that love where nothing makes them fall apart, no one cheats, no one decides to divorces the other because they don't like each other anymore. The love ends not because that their relationship is shaken up but their love ends because their life ends and that is what leaves you completely heartbroken, devastated but in a strange way, uplifted, moved and touched having just witnesses the real power of love.
Amour is able to capture the most honest (whether good or bad) feelings of the last days in the life of this elderly couple. The struggles both of them equally on each sides have to face, the frustrations and harrowing realities they have to come across. It is emotional but not sentimental, it has a few moments of joy which makes you hold on to this story and that is something that affects you when things starts to get awful. Its extraordinary in its depiction of life, love, death, romance, struggles, anger, illness, sufferings and it comes off as both powerful, intense and beautiful as well as moving. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva definitely gives the performances of their lifetime worthy of every accolade that there is. Also this is one of my favorite movies of the year and perhaps my most favorite from Haneke. God bless him.