Amour is, unlikely as it may seem, both one of Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's warmest and most clinical films. As methodical and dispassionately observational as ever, never shying away from hard truths nor afraid to confront audiences with unbearable moments, Amour is also a surprisingly compassionate and even understanding work - no wonder, since it is a film as much about love as it is about death.

     It is literally a chamber piece, a two-hander set entirely within a French apartment, painterly photographed by master Darius Khondji between the comfort of the warm electric lights and the bright, harsh sunlight coming in through the big windows of the flat, wondrously performed by towering French veterans Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant (who came out of a nearly 15-year screen retirement to accept this role). Amour tells of what happens to an elderly couple of retired music teachers when one of them falls ill: paralysed on her right side and requiring a wheelchair to move, Anne (Ms. Riva) becomes a burden to the not-so-nimble himself Georges (Mr. Trintignant), their undying love for each other poignantly threatened at every moment by her despair at losing her faculties and his at watching her becoming ever more frail with every step.

     "None of this is worth seeing", says Georges at one point when the couple's daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert, in a small but pivotal role) asks why he's shying away from keeping her in the loop of what's going on. But Mr. Haneke does believe that it is worth seeing, throwing away the curtains that are usually drawn over old age, his traditional bluntness modulated here by a surprising tenderness, present both in the outstandingly delicate performances and Mr. Khondji's attention at the visual requirements of the piece. With Amour, the director delivers a troubling film that is as unflinching as his previous work, but also passionate and, dare I say, accessibly humane.

Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

Director/writer: Michael Haneke
Cinematography: Darius Khondji  (colour)
Designer: Jean-Vincent Puzos
Costumes: Catherine Leterrier
Editors: Monika Willi, Nadine Muse
Producers: Margaret Ménégoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz (Les Films du Losange, X-Filme Creative Pool and Wega Film in co-production with France 3 Cinéma, ARD Degeto, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Westdeutscher Rundfunk)
France/Germany/Austria, 2012, 127 minutes

Screened: advance DVD screener, Lisbon, December 2nd 2012


Popular Posts