Austrian director Michael Haneke’s “Amour” (2012) is like a dream “rounded with sleep,” an intense, haunting film that lingers long after viewing.
Georges and Anne (brilliantly portrayed by Jean-Louis Trintignant and especially Emmanuelle Riva) are 80ish, retired music teachers, married seemingly forever. Returning home from an evening at the symphony, they are obviously still very much in love. Every moment seems all the more precious, informed by the unspoken tragedy of their inevitable demise..
See trailer for “Amour” HERE.
One morning at breakfast, Anne abruptly stops responding to Georges. Her eyes are open, but time has stopped. Just as suddenly, she snaps back to reality, but can’t remember anything that took place during her fadeout.
After spending some time in the hospital after a stroke, Anne pleads with Georges that she remain at home during the little time they have left together. When Anne continues to deteriorate, their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), tries to convince her father that a care facility would be better for everyone, but Georges refuses to break his promise to Anne.
It is difficult to find the words to describe Riva’s brave performance here. It’s not just her agonizingly slow withdrawal from the world; it is how everyone around her is affected.
Darius Khondji’s restrained cinematography perfectly captures “Amour” in images of the eternal present that quietly echo happier times. The simplest moments are gently amplified like the intense light and shadow of a great still-life painting, as if the family is seeing the modest surroundings of their everyday life for the first – and the last – time.
The film has received five Oscar nominations: Achievement in Directing; Original Screenplay; Foreign Language Film (winning is a mere formality); Best Picture (Oscar never dances with both “best picture” categories); and Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva, who gave us the greatest performance in the universe in “Amour,” but is unlikely to win the Oscar for reasons unrelated to merit).
Writer/Director Michael Haneke already picked up his second Palme d’Or (in four years) at Cannes in May. He becomes the seventh director recognized for best picture since Cecil B. DeMille received the first award for “Union Pacific” (1939).
See playdates and locations for “Amour” HERE.
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