Winner of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or, Amour (Love) is a powerful story about what it really means to love someone. This film should be shown to any couples considering getting married or committing to life together – are you willing to do this for the person you love? If not, you might need to reconsider taking a life-binding oath. Check out my review after the jump.
Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are retired music teachers who are in their 80s. They have lived a long and full life together and then one day Anne has an attack, and has no recollection of what has happened. After a period of hospitalization we learn that Anne suffered a stroke and is paralysed down the right-side of her body. Some days later she returns to their apartment in a wheelchair, and from that day Anne requires constant round-the-clock care. Anne (who is terrified of hospitals) makes Georges promise her that he won’t hospitalize her again – and from then the film chronicles Anne’s steady decline in health, and the daily struggles that Geroges goes through to care for the woman he loves.
This film is extremely unsettling and uncomfortable to watch, as it plays to some of our deepest fears. What would we do if we found our body crumbling around us? How would we cope if the person we loved was in so much pain? Do we have someone in our lifes that loves us enough to go through that? These are all heart-wrenching thoughts about situations that are likely to affect may of us at some point in out lives. Haneke wants us to feel the pain, the frustration, and the love. Each shot is quite long, and the camera stays in a mostly fixed position – there is no score, and there are no distractions. We are forced to watch each and every moment in it’s raw beauty. Seeing a man learn how to put a diaper on the woman he loves, or watching him try in anguish to make her drink some water is just gut-wrenching, and Haneke ensures that we feel every bit of it.
The performances in this film are simply incredible. I cannot even begin to fathom how exhausting playing Anne would have been for Emmanuelle Riva. There is no doubt she and Haneke have studied stroke patients, as her performance was pitch-perfect. Even when the stroke took her ability to speak clearly, she conveyed so much with her eyes alone. Jean-Louis Trintignant is amazing as Geroges, and he adds such humanity to a character that could have been a little too-saintly. Georges isn’t perfect and he feels anger and frustration towards Anne, which Trintignan manages to express wonderfully. There wasn’t a moment than I wasn’t fully behind Georges, and I felt both his love and his pain.
As the title suggests, this film is about love. Love isn’t all about romantic moments and happiness – real love is about sticking by the person you’re committed to through the most awful and heart-breaking of times. Love is loving someone when they are making you miserable and you just want to cry. This film conveys the true meaning of what it is to really love someone, in the most powerful and convincing way. It is beautiful and it is ugly, but it is love.
Overall Amour is a powerful, gut-wrenching, and life-affirming film. It’s not an easy watch, but it is a rewarding one. Haneke has given us a lesson in what love really is, and it’s one which is both beautiful and painful.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer(s): Michael Haneke
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva
Country: France, Austria, Germany
Runtime: 125 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: February 21 2013; New Zealand: No date set; USA: December 19 2012