Review No. 468
It’s difficult not to love “Amour”.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY MICHAEL HANEKE. STARRING JEAN-LOUIS TRINTIGNANT (GEORGES LAURENT), EMMANUELLE RIVA (ANNE LAURENT), AND ISABELLE HUPPERT (EVA LAURENT). ALSO STARRING ALEXANDRE THARAUD, CAROLE FRANCK, DAMIEN JOUILLEROT, DINARA DROUKAROVA, JEAN-MICHEL MONROC, LAURENT CAPELLUTO, RAMÓN AGIRRE, RITA BLANCO, SUZANNE SCHMIDT, WALID AFKIR, AND WILLIAM SHIMELL. DISTRIBUTED BY SONY PICTURES CLASSICS ON DECEMBER 19, 2012. PRODUCED IN FRENCH BY AUSTRIA, FRANCE, AND GERMANY. RUNS 2 HOURS, 7 MINUTES. RATED PG-13 BY THE MPAA, FOR MATURE THEMATIC MATERIAL INCLUDING A DISTURBING ACT, AND FOR BRIEF LANGUAGE.
AMOUR WAS WATCHED ON APRIL 27, 2013.
“Things will go on as they have done up until now. They’ll go from bad to worse. Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over.” –Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant)
Georges and Anne Laurent are an octogenarian couple living in a Parisian apartment. Both are retired music teachers, and their daughter is abroad. It comes to Georges by surprise one morning when his wife has a silent stroke during breakfast. He tries to live a normal life with her, particularly because she has a fear of being hospitalized, but upon returning from a funeral one night, he discovers that Anne has suffered yet another stroke and is now paralyzed down her right side. Georges is now devoting every moment of his life to taking care of his wife at all costs, but it’s not at all easy. His life has taken a sharp turn from nothing but joy, into a world full of concern, stress, and fear.
Similar to many other films from Austrian director Michael Haneke, it has both visual and audial simplicity as a core technique, and more often than not, it’s used to shocking, suspenseful effect. Simplicity is a beautiful quality. Amour tells a simple story and handles it even more simply: Cinematography is often limited to a few basic shots per scene. Dialogue seems as harmlessly unedited as a casual conversation. A quiet atmosphere is maintained, and as the story progresses, it dissolves from serenity to pure horror.
What’s best rendered in all this is the irony that this is a film about music teachers, yet the closest thing we experience to a soundtrack is a few appearances of “Bagatelles in G minor”. We hear it in the beginning to illustrate the film’s mood, and several times afterward for the same, unsettling effect.
Amour is a film that feels authentic because more than 90% of it is set within the confines of the apartment. Even in a movie theater, it’s difficult not to feel claustrophobic at times. Often times, I would wince as the camera depicted the tiny apartment’s narrow halls or the short distance between the kitchen table and the sink. At other times, you’re as scared as the loving Georges is. There’s a perfect example directly at the midpoint: a nightmare sequence. At the cinema, the scene evoked the sorts of screams you’d expect from a horror movie.
I have to say, I enjoyed the tense build-up that was created in this uneasy atmosphere, even if the “payoff” for the suspense was underworked. Granted, the climactic shock factor was appreciated by many audiences, but to the eyes of this critic, you couldn’t be any more impulsive in trying to subvert an audience’s expectations. But these are merely the climactic scenes, and perhaps the only apparent misstep the film takes. Those moments are redeemed entirely in the ending. The final ten minutes conclude the film with mesmerizing depth and a few creative twists on traditional symbolism. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say it’s one of the most thought-provoking conclusions since Citizen Kane.