Amour, film by Michael Haneke

emmanuelleriva_amour_LARGEAmour is a very intense and explicit film.  Despite the title this is no traditional romantic tale.  It is in fact as much about death and dying as it is about love.  The film recounts the final weeks or months, the passing of time is never clear, of Georges and Anne, two retired music teachers.  Both are in their eighties and very much in love.  Everything starts well as they attend a concert.  But soon after this Anne suffers the first of a series of strokes which at first confines her to a wheelchair and then to her bed.  During her decline Anne is patiently and lovingly cared for by her husband.  Georges wheels her about, cooks and feeds her, helps her to the toilet, helps her shower and ends up having to change her “nappy”.  Anne’s physical, mental and emotional decline is show in all its explicit degradation.  Dying is shown here as a very messy and extremely stressful process.

For it is not only Anne who suffers.   Georges too is placed in an almost impossible situation.  As the film progresses they spend more and more time alone with each other, almost shut off from the outside world.  For Anne has made it clear she does not under any circumstances want to be returned to hospital or put in a care home.   As her pain and suffering become greater and greater, it becomes unbearable for Georges too.  It is clear from an early stage that this is not a film that will have a happy ending and it doesn’t.  Though there is an enigmatic final scene which may hint at some kind of redemption for Georges.  What the film does do though is to question the nature of love.   When Anne demands that Georges alone cares for her – is this love?  When Georges persists in caring for her in his unprofessional way – is this love?

As with all Michael Haneke films this is beautifully directed and filmed.  Nothing is rushed and in many of the scenes nothing seems to happen – time just passes, as a stationary camera shows a doorway or a window.  Someone or something may pass by or may not.  All this adds to the edginess of the atmosphere.  You keep expecting something to happen and probably something bad or rather nasty.  The two leads are wonderful.  Jean-Louis Trintingant and Emmuelle Riva give performances of great restraint and tenderness.  A very powerful, sad and moving film.

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