Amour tugs at your heart by skillfully conveying not only the complications of love, but the crueler side as of it as well.
After Michael Haneke’s Amour was awarded the prestigious Palme D’or (the highest prize awarded and his second career win) at Cannes Film Festival this year it was instantly considered to be the front-runner to win this year’s Best Foreign Language award at the Academy Awards. It may not be as thought provoking as his previous films but Amour is just as sincere and powerful, even if does contain more of a straight-forward approach that is not typical of his other work.
The opening scene begins with the fire department ramming down the locked door of Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne’s (Emmanuelle Riva) apartment – discovering Anne surrounded by flower petals as she lies dead in bed. There are no obvious signs as to what happened to Anne or how the flowers got there. Georges is not shown to be in the apartment and we know nothing about the couple yet. Haneke then works backward to show the lives of the elderly couple before the foregone conclusion.
The couple is first seen together as part of a large audience at a piano concert. The camera remains on the audience even after the concert begins to emphasize the importance of who is listening to the music, not who is playing it. Once the couple arrive home, Georges tells Anne how pretty she looks that night – perfectly showing the amount of love the two share for each other after spending half a century together.
Anne suddenly has a stroke that leaves her right side of her body paralyzed. She hates being a burden to Georges thus resents talking about her condition. The thought of ending her life has cross her mind several times but Georges refuses to allow that to happen. He loves her dearly and knows that if the tables were turned there would be no doubt she would take care of him. Her condition goes from bad to worse and soon loses the ability to speak clearly. But Georges does not give up. He continues to assist her every move; helping her out of bed, bathe her and even feeding her. He recites childhood memoirs to Anne that she has never heard before to grant her wish of taking her mind off her condition. Unlike death, which is inescapable, love can last forever.
For good reason, Haneke gets the inevitable death of Anne out of the way in the very opening seconds of the film. The reason is similar to when he showed the audience instead of the concert player, he wanted the focus to be on what matters the most, not on what was most obvious. What was important here was not the death of her, but the relationship she had with her life-long husband.
There are two separate scenes in which a pigeon flies in through an open window of the apartment. The first time this happens, Georges scares the bird back out the window. But when the pigeon re-enters the apartment later in the film, something interesting happens. Instead of forcing the bird back out from which it came, he catches the bird to cuddle it. This can be seen as Georges finally accepting the reality of Anne’s situation.
Amour would not have work worked without the incredible performances from both of the leads. Emmanuelle Riva is absolutely brilliant in her role as an elderly woman who suffers from multiple strokes, which renders her immobile and nearly speechless. Jean-Louis Trintignant’s character makes the situation even more devastating just by how much love he possess for his dying companion.
Amour demonstrations just how powerful love can be by showing how much torture one can endure for love. It is a certainly a grim film but what this coupe holds for each other is both moving and inspirational to say the least. Amour tugs at your heart by skillfully conveying not only the complications of love, but the crueler side as of it as well.