Michael Haneke is one of the most fascinating filmmakers around today. From his exploration of cinematic violence in Funny Games to his diagnosis of German society in The White Ribbon, Haneke has always crafted challenging pieces of cinema. His films require patience – you’ll often have questions, but you won’t get any answers.
Amour is one of his finest works to date. It tells the story of Georges and Anne, an elderly couple that have their love put to the test when Anne suffers a debilitating attack. As Anne deteriorates, Georges finds it more and more difficult to take care of her.
This is, like most of his films, a deep exploration of basic human emotions and the ways in which people deal with traumatic incidents. Haneke has crafted a stark, yet beautiful film that aches with honesty and emotion. His calm, calculated directing style is used to full effect here. His slow pace and long takes allows for the story to unfold without any sort of “cinematic intrusion”. This minimalist approach makes you feel as though you are just another person in the room, witnessing helplessly.
Haneke’s film would be nothing without the amazing, heartbreaking performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. They are absolutely incredible. As Georges, Trintignant gives us a man that refuses to give up on his wife. His love for her is the key to the movie and his performance captures the pain, frustration and devotion that only true love can bring.
Emmanuelle Riva delivers the best female performance of the year. If Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t America’s sweetheart right now, Riva would have won the award for Best Actress. As an elderly woman dealing with the inevitability of her fate, Emmanuelle Riva couldn’t be more convincing. Apart from the physical challenges of such a role, her emotions are beautifully conveyed without words. She is a woman that refuses to lose her dignity and seeing her transformation is truly heartbreaking.
The word ‘amour’ is French for ‘love’, and while it may be bleak and quite depressing, this is a beautiful love story that explores the lengths that we will go to for those we love. Amour is a powerful and heart-wrenching film from one of cinema’s great directors. It’s with good reason that this took home Best Foreign Film at this year’s Academy Awards. It isn’t easy viewing, but those that see it and give it the focus and time it deserves will be moved by the experience.