Known for his intensely disturbing films (Funny Games, anyone?), Amour explores Michael Haneke’s softer side. There are no golf club beatings or hidden cameras in this one. The intensity comes all from the incredible performances and profound sadness of an ageing relationship.
Starring Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant as the stroke-ridden wife and her saddened husband, the legendary French actors give stirring performances in what may be one of the greatest movies about ageing ever put to film.
Georges and Anne have lived a full life. Amour isn’t a dying drama about regret and missed chances. The couple quarrel, joke, and share stories like young sweethearts. Every inch of their apartment is covered with a life filled of joy. Walls adorned with photographs of family and paintings of landscapes that hardly capture reality as well as Haneke’s intimate portrait of a couple in love.
It all should be a recipe for tear-jerking sentimentality, but it’s not. That doesn’t mean tears won’t be shed as the film reaches its wrenchingly sad conclusion. But with Haneke’s direction, there’s no Hollywood manipulation here.
Amour is muted and intimate, an incredibly stark contrast to a film like Funny Games, Haneke’s jarring, frustrating commentary on sadism. The camera in Amour rarely leaves the couple’s Paris apartment, and moves slowly when, and if, it moves at all. The stillness of Haneke’s lens creates a realism so intimate, underscoring his unsentimental approach. That realism is Amour‘s most powerful effect.
Amour is a picture done by masters. Haneke’s directing is tender, his script stunningly poetic, and his actors amazing. Riva delivers one of the bravest performances in recent years as Anne. It’s always difficult to talk about “brave” acting, but if there is such a thing, this is it.
As Georges, the film’s aching centre, Trintignant is as heart-wrenching to watch as the pained spouse of a dying woman as the dying woman herself. These actors, in their 80s now, should be top contenders at next year’s Oscar ceremonies for their work in this triumphant film.