Directed by: Michael Haneke
Written by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Love evolves and changes upon major life events and simply through time. Different challenges and obstacles suddenly make themselves evident, which then leads to difficult decisions needing to be made. Above all, Amour shows a heightened sense of love and duty done through the coldest way possible.
Living life as a married couple, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) go about their days as senior citizens. One night, Anne suffers a stroke, which begins her complete physical decline and partial paralysis. After promising Anne that she would never be sent to the hospital or a nursing home, Georges must take care of his ill wife.
Naming the film the French translation of “love” seems almost comical because when quickly examining the story, it feels like that emotion seems to be missing. Two individuals that have passed their prime physically and mentally find themselves in a stage of co-dependence they have never experienced before. Both being retired piano teachers, Anne and Georges have lived off of their musical brilliance but everything seems different in this new stage of their lives. The stroke only confirms the feelings that have been brewing between them for so long.
Undoubtedly, Amour stands as an achievement in filmmaking, which came to no surprise with director Michael Haneke crafting the project. The tone of the film carries throughout and the slow-moving dialogue gets to the emotional gut-punch Haneke seeks to achieve with the story. Its themes about life and what it means to actually live carry through from the opening scene to the closing credits. Its effectiveness cannot be questioned but the way it lands left me incredibly cold.
While the title may suggest love, it feels like everything that transpires on screen happens to be the opposite. It makes this film the juxtaposition of its title. It comes across that way because love as seen through these characters evidently displays something many of us have never seen. The closest thing to an audience representation is the couple’s daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert). She visits her parents and continually gets left in the dark as to what’s happening to her mother and how she can support them. Eva does not receive much screen time and everything else happens with Georges and Anne. The raw interactions between the married couple happen behind closed doors and Haneke ensures that he keeps us at arms-length from the characters emotionally.
It goes without saying that the acting by Trintignant and Riva was phenomenal in the way they portrayed these characters. They really truly showed this awful decline in a way that makes it all the more devastating because I saw the conclusion coming about 20 minutes into the movie. There would only be one way that it could end, but their performances make the journey worthwhile. Riva, in particular, handles all of those physically challenging pieces of dialogue so well to show the ailment that her character endures as well as the psychological impact of barely being able to move physically.
As with any film that focuses on the life of a married couple, this story impacted me in a personal way because it allows me to process what my actions would be in a similar situation. The incredible stress Anne’s condition has on both her and her husband seems to be unbearable and I cannot imagine having to navigate those conversations. Haneke refuses to allow the audience to believe that everything will work out because reality and human emotion do not always align with reason. It makes the inevitable conclusion that much more difficult to process and thus makes the film a horrible viewing experience.
Amour demonstrates incredible craftsmanship by its director and actors, but it shows us a reality we may be all walking through at some point. It may not be with a partner, but a friend or family member. The story shows how love can go from being a relationship of connection to one of obligation and that makes it incredibly painful. It seems to be fairly difficult for me to recommend this film to anyone because it’s an experience that only reminds me of the inevitability of death. The film makes you sit there and experience this slow decline and see a man watch the women he’s loved for decades become a shell of herself. Incredibly cold but undeniably powerful.