France /Austria / Germany 2012
“How to manage the suffering of someone you love? That’s the thing that touched me, that I wanted to investigate.”
Michael Haneke, director
Amour stars two actors who completely take us in, to their story of old age overtaking life.
Jean-Louis Trintignant, for whom the director Michael Haneke wrote the script, began his film stardom by appearing with Brigitte Bardot in Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman in 1956, but has maintained a steady career, with long spells on the stage but often nominated for awards in the last three decades and ultimately winning the French César award for Best Actor with this film.
Emmanuelle Riva started her career with a role in Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour in 1959 and like Trintignant, spent long spells on the stage. She won the Best Actress award from BAFTA and the French César Award for Best Actress for her role in this film.
I find it impossible to write anything of my personal reaction to the content of this multiple award-winning film itself, thanks to its sustained assault on my emotions, and, like many of us, the presence of similar issues in our own families.
Nevertheless I find its restrained visual and aural style compelling, beautiful and even relaxing, in the face of enormous moral pressure which builds as the film proceeds.
Michael Haneke offers us very little enjoyment in the story and little resolution, but the questions he asks, but does not answer, pile up unbearably. These questions are very pertinent to the way we deal with old age, incapacity and death in modern society, and the lack of answers leave us considerable space to attempt our own emotional, intelligent and creative response.
This approach to film-making is deliberate on Haneke’s part and for some I would guess, simply too baffling. Instead we are invited to feel, then think and be puzzled by our own responses.
In his book Film as Catharsis, Haneke writes:
“My films are intended as polemical statements against the American ‘barrel down’ cinema and its dis-empowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus.”
I’m not sure I’d want to watch one of his films every evening, but once in a while the impact of such brutally searching inquiry is welcome, but at the same time, hard to take.
I’ll need a few sleeps for the effect to wear off!
Richard Millwood, September 2014