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My Thoughts on ‘Amour’

'Amour' opens in limited release on Dec. 19th, 2012.

‘Amour’ opens in limited release on Dec. 19th, 2012. (image via awardsdaily.com)

I’m a pretty devoted fan of Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke at this point. With previous films like the The White RibbonThe Piano TeacherFunny Games (both of them), and Caché, he’s more than solidified his spot on a short list of all-time great writer-directors. The talented auteur’s latest offering is Amour, and although it’s less violent and obviously shocking than the aforementioned movies, it’s nevertheless a devastating and emotionally gripping experience that may be the most respectful and forthright film about marriage that I’ve ever seen.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are an elderly couple who seem to live a quiet, comfortable life in their Paris apartment. They clearly share a comfortableness with one another that only decades of closeness can create.  Their foundation is shaken, however, when Anne begins to experience some debilitating medical issues that leave her in a wheelchair, which is apparently similar to something that Haneke experienced with a family member in real life. I won’t go into great detail in an effort to stay spoiler free, but I will say that watching Anne’s struggle with her new circumstances is painful to watch, as is Georges’ efforts to keep her well.

That’s really all you need to know about the film’s story because what unfolds over the course of 127 minute running time needs to experienced, not explained. The bulk of relationship films that show a couple struggling through hard times are fraudulent. They’re contrived, silly, or just plain insulting to people with real problems (e.g. Reese Witherspoon movies). This is a film about genuine love, but it’s realistic and raw. There’s no pop music playing or any annoying banter between two perfect looking twentysomethings who just can’t seem to make it work, but then *BOOM* they live happily ever after. Amour is honest, unflinching, unsentimental, painful and beautiful all at the same time.

Luckily, it’s also nonjudgmental, which is important because what transpires over the course of the movie is deeply private. As voyeurs looking in at a painful time in a couple’s life, the audience must respect the decisions they make, not second-guess them.  To pass judgment on the actions of these two wonderful characters would be cruel and completely beside the point. Their business is their own, something Georges tries to make clear to his daughter, Eva (played wonderfully by the great Isabelle Huppert).

Amour has already been named the best picture of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics, the best foreign film by the New York Film Critics, and it won the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival (Haneke’s first Palme d’Or came in 2009 for The White Ribbon). I can’t really guess how much attention it will get from the Academy when nominations are announced in a few months, but I truly hope this is not one that’s overlooked. In spite of its tough subject matter and palpable sadness, I think Amour may actually resonate well with the somewhat older and stodgy voters.

But they’ve let me down before. Just read what I wrote about last year’s nomination announcement. I’d hate to go through that again.

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  1. December 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Great write up. I saw this back in July at the International Film Festival in Auckland, New Zealand. What struck me most was how much I would hate to be that dependent on a loved one if a debilitating illness struck me….Loved the movie…

    • December 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

      Thank you very much. While watching the film, you can’t help but think about what you’d do in that scenario. It’s such a personal experience and it’s hard to truly empathize without experiencing it directly.

  2. December 11, 2012 at 12:32 am

    I read this while I was makin a doody, so thank you. I will see this.

    • December 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

      It’s a winner. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

  1. February 13, 2013 at 7:48 am

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