Retired music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignan) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are in their eighties. Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert), who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. When Anne's health deteriorates, the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
My review is categorized as 'favourable' not because I enjoyed the film (that's not Michael Haneke's intent) but because I recognise what he is trying to say and that he says it with a unique cinematic voice. The subject of ageing and the challenges for sufferers and family of serious, debilitating illness in old age is entirely relevant, valid and timely, but it's as if Haneke has just found out about ageing. He doesn't use music in his films (except where appropriate as source music or something the characters do) but if he did, I'd suggest he could have reworded that old standard whose lyrics go, I Just Found Out About Love - and I Like It, to I Just Found Out About Age - and I Hate it.
The theme has been repeatedly dealt with in cinema and is a permanent item on today's arts menu. Haneke presents the subject with as much extended, confronting display of it as possible, to drive the point home. The Cannes festival encourages him relentlessly, inviting him back again and again, the juries pressing awards on him (the 2012 Palme d'Or for this) and serious film commentators, academics and bloggers proclaim his genius. He is certainly unique and his cinema is there to make us uncomfortable. Nothing wrong with that of course, artists are supposed to. My reservations with Amour are to do with the fact that it is rather too obvious - in some respects - and too opaque or oblique in others.
Of course, you could say it is part of his art to dress up his essay in a complex form, but I don't buy that. I admire his bravery in filming scenes well beyond their expositionary need to make us see, not just look at the content, even contemplate. The camera is often cemented still, as if abandoned; but Haneke isn't trying to clarify with this device, he's trying to hide his purpose.
Ageing actor Jean Louis Trintignan and actress Emmanuelle Riva give their all to challenging, soul destroying roles, as a couple whose love is as gnarled as old vines that twist and twirl around each other in eternal bondage.
Haneke's painstaking (and paingiving) style is to deconstruct their decaying lives, exploring every crumb in close up; we are witness to the full horror of a husband caring for a wife mentally disappearing before his eyes. There's nothing in this film that doesn't happen all over the world every day; it usually happens in private, and the suffering of all concerned - while subconsciously shared with humanity - is familiar to most of us. What do we learn, what light does this shine on those awful experiences? What new things do we learn of love ... amour?
In the end, ironically, Haneke hides the final, inevitable act so that he can close with a calm, still frame of an apartment now empty except for the residue of their amour.
Review by Louise Keller:
The love to which Michael Haneke refers in his 2012 Palme d'Or winning film Amour, is one that symbolises many things: devotion, commitment, patience, sacrifice, happy memories of a lifetime together - and loss. At first it is easy to recognise what is lost, but gradually loss escalates into a cruel ball, gathering momentum as it reaches its nadir.
The loss is sudden, yet it is slow. The film, like life for former music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), since Anne's health crisis, evolves slowly through every new and devastating phase. Debilitation and loss of control is a harsh topic, yet Haneke's film is surprisingly gentle, exploring the constraints and options faced, as old age delivers its ultimate blow - the loss of self and ability to function with dignity. It may not be comfortable to watch, but with its heartfelt, convincing performances, this ode to love is a pensive and affecting call for the examination and determination of many things. Not the least of which is life and making the most of every moment.
The opening and closing credits roll in total silence on a black background that echoes the sombre mood of the film. After a brief opening sequence, there is a flash-back to a piano recital in a Paris theatre. Although we hear the sound of Schubert from the stage, our eyes focus on an elderly couple sitting in the audience, enthralled by the performance. We follow them home to their apartment and become attuned to their rhythms of daily life, doing simple things. By the time Alexandre Tharaud, the pianist pays them a visit and plays Beethoven's Bagatelles in G minor on the grand piano in the lounge room, some time has passed and Anne is in a wheelchair.
Don't feel guilty, Anne tells Georges, as she tells him to find something to do on his own, while she struggles to turn the pages of her book. An eternity passes as we watch Anne sleep; the camera rests on Georges' concerned face. The camera lingers on Anne lying in bed. Time passes slowly. The practical issues of coping are canvassed in detail as Georges patiently assumes the bulk of the load himself, caring for his wife with the greatest of consideration, tenderness and love.
The two central performances are faultless and the love that Anne and Georges have for each other is expressed in a myriad of ways. Isabelle Huppert is a solid presence as their London-based daughter Eva, whose concern takes many forms. Tears, confusion, anger, helplessness - these are all natural responses to situations in which control is lost. The scene in which Georges tells his daughter of the indignities her mother faces - none of which deserve to be shown, is one that is hard to erase.
The question of our own mortality inevitably arises as a result of Haneke's film. In our hearts, we may wish to fly away into the limitless horizons, like the flecked pigeon that flutters through the apartment's windows one day, but as Anne says at one point, 'imagination and reality have little in common.'
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CAST: Jean-Louis Trintignan, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud, William Shimell,
PRODUCER: Margaret Menegoz
DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke
SCRIPT: Michael Haneke
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Darius Khondi
EDITOR: Nadine Muse, Monika Willi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jean-Vincent Puzos
RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2013