February 18, 2013

Amour - A Portrait of True Love


                             In the movie, "The Straight Story", protagonist Alvin Straight remarks that the "The worst part of being old is remembering when you was young.” Austrian director Michael Haneke's "Amour" (Love) talks about another kind of reality in old age: watching helplessly as a loved one slowly succumbs to the ravages of old age. The film can be termed as "soul-shattering". It elegantly portrays the long-living fulfilled marriage as well as the march to oblivion -- a ghastly look at the future none of us wants to consider.

                              Amour is 2012's multiple Oscar nominee, Golden Globe and Palme d'Or (Cannes) award winner. This film is not your vehicle for escapist entertainment. It doesn't frees oneself from worldly concerns and considerations. This is another kind of movie, which we can call as "human experience." Haneke, the guy behind twisted films like "Funny Games", "The White Ribbon", "Cache" has once again plunges deep into the crevices of the human condition and putting his characters through living hell. 

                           Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are in their 80s -- both are retired music teachers -- and still very much connected with love. The movie opens with Georges and Anne attending a piano recital and ending the evening in their well-found apartment. Over the next few days, Anne simply starts slipping away. She suffers from a mild stroke and doctors recommend her to undergo an operation to prevent a recurrence that could be more damaging. The operation ends in disaster and Anna is completely paralyzed on her right side. Their daughter (Isabelle Huppert) occasionally visits, but mostly Georges waves off her support. It is made clear from first that the octogenarian couple have built their own tender, civilized wall that serves not only as a source of strength against the outside world, but also one of solitude and, eventually, quiet desperation.




                             Trintignant (The Conformist, Z) and Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) are one of the giants of international cinema. They have been acting in movies for 50 years. If you are a movie buff you can feel the theirs history and can remember them when they were young, which enriches the illusion of a life-long marriage. Trintignant gives a unsentimental, sensitive performance as Georges. The way he shows emotion with only his eyes is haunting as well as a master class in acting. The scene, where Georges tells Anne the story of his trip to camp as a child, his battle with diphtheria, and his mother's strange visit to him in the hospital and the act that follows the story may well be one of the most shattering moment in cinematic history. Riva is physically and emotionally courageous as she portrays perfectly her character's slow deterioration. Riva's subtle reaction to Georges, who is giving her a drink of water encapsulates all her anger at dying. Isabelle Huppert -- a Haneke regular -- is effective in the supporting role of Eva (Anne and Georges' daughter).

                            Through long, static shots, director Haneke stares straight into the indignities of old age and the curse of a slow death. His carefully shot images cuts no corners and stings with the authenticity of life’s fragility. His movies are never the cheery kind but Amour is something entirely different and it still hurts more. May be because the director is not working within a genre as he usually does but writing from a deeper, more personal perspective (Haneke is 70). Amour could have been overly melodramatic, but Haneke has approached the subject matter with great restraint. He perfectly paints a picture, which shows that the ultimate test of a lifelong passion may come not in its first flourish, but in the compassion of its very last days.

Director Haneke with Riva and Trintingnant
                          Rubbing on creams to prevent bedsores, cleaning bedpans and changing diapers. Trying to make decisions about the future when there really isn't one -- this may sound depressing but the movie also makes a profound statement about what constitutes true love. Death is something everyone of us has in common. It scares us and makes us ask, Will it hurt?, How will it come, and when? In the end, we can't take control of those things, but love and compassion are always within our reach. So, despite its grueling nature "Amour's" resonant themes looks strangely optimistic. 

                         "Amour" (2012) is a heartbreaking film that is sure to bring tears -- a lot of tears -- to your eyes. "Who's going to watch a movies to get depressed... " Right? Yeah, may not be a reality you wish to confront, but it is worthy of its all-encompassing title. 

Trailer


Amour - IMDb 

10 comments:

Bushra said...

That was a very informative write up! Enjoyed it!

A Homemaker's Utopia said...

Wow..Thats a great review Arun..:-)

Arun said...

@Bushra, Thanks for the comment.

@Homemaker's Utopia, Thank you and don't miss the movie.

dtmmr.com said...

Good review Arun. It’s a very sad and emotionally draining flick, but the leads are amazing and if anything, are worth to be seen for them alone. Haneke doesn’t have much of a direction here, but instead just lets everybody do their thing and that’s about as powerful as you can get.

Arun said...

@dtmmr.com, Thanks for the comment. Haneke direction is always alluring. You are right, the leads take the center stage in "Amour."

Ravi said...

Arun-

What is your take on the ending ?

**Spoilers**

Did Jorges die in the house or he went somewhere ?

Arun said...

@Ravi, My friend thought that Georges left the apartment and died somewhere else. I think that he died after that scene, where he catches the dove and writes a letter. The last scene, where Georges and Anne leaving the apartment might represent their 'souls' departing from that place.

What is your take?

Ravi said...

@Arun

Exactly, this is what I thought, Georges and Anne leaving the apartment might be their souls. Or it is just Georges leaving the apartment and Anne is just his imagination.

Regarding the slowness in the film, I think the director deliberately made this movie with slow and long-takes just to make the audience to feel the pain ( not sure if its a apt word ) of the elderly people. ( I haven't seen other Haneke films )

PS: In my first comment I mentioned the name as Jorges, its a typo, I just got carried over by another film which I just watched. It had a character named Jorges :-)

Arun said...

@Ravi, Whatever the endings is, this movie is not a simple cry fest. It has deep meanings to ponder. You should watch Haneke's "White Ribbon", "Cache" and "Funny Games"(not the remake). All are slow paced, but Haneke's visual command and the thoughtful, disturbing themes might stick with us.

Ravi said...

@Arun Thanks for suggesting the films..