Amour * * * * *

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Director: Michael Haneke.
Screenplay: Michael Haneke.
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud, William Shimell, Ramรณn Agirre, Rita Blanco.

Danish director Bille August was the only director to win back-to-back Palme d’Or awards at the Cannes Film Festival (in 1988 & 1992) with his film’s “Pelle The Conqueror” and “The Best Intentions“. That was, until Austrian director Michael Haneke recently equalled that achievement. His first came in 2009 with “The White Ribbon” and he done it again in 2012 with this deeply emotional and profound film that’s been heralded by many as a masterpiece.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are couple of retired music teachers who have been married a long time and are now enjoying life in their eighties. One morning at breakfast, Anne displays some unusual behaviour and becomes momentarily distant without any memory of doing so. It’s transpires that she has suffered a stroke which leads to symptoms of dementia. Georges takes on her care but the very close relationship this couple once shared, is put to it’s greatest test.

I’m not one for giving away spoilers but that decision is taken out of my hands straight away by Michael Haneke. He gives us an opening scene of firemen breaking down an apartment door to find the deceased body of an elderly woman lying on her bed with flower arrangements around her. Following this – in bold letters – the seemingly contradictory title of the film is displayed; “Amour” – or the English translation; “Love“. It’s a powerful opening and from the off-set Haneke shows his confidence by delivering the ending at the very beginning. However, it’s the journey up to this point that’s the real story behind this film.
When we are introduced to our protagonists, Georges and Anne, we are given a glimpse into their daily lives and how familiar and comfortable they are in each others company. It’s obvious that they’ve shared a lot of time together but it’s also this sense of realism that packs the real punch, when the health of Anne rapidly deteriorates.
Set, almost entirely, within the couples’ household, Haneke uses the space and setting masterfully. It’s subtly done but on slightly closer inspection you can see that the house is in slight disrepair much like the failing health of this elderly couple. Despite time being against these people in their twilight years, time also seems to slow right down in their home. Haneke builds slowly and refuses to be rushed. He lingers long on shots and reactions and refuses to use any form of a music score to manipulate or force you to feel. What you witness is raw and uncompromising and rarely is such reality and authenticity captured on screen.
This a profound and honest exploration of mortality and the nature of ageing; the loneliness involved and the humiliation and inability to maintain dignity. It’s heartbreaking to witness the deterioration of an individual and the performance of the Oscar nominated, veteran French actress, Emmanuelle Riva is an astounding piece of acting. Trintignant also puts in some very fine work as the loving husband who finds himself out of his depth and his frustration begins to show in his level of care and compassion.
As is normally the case in Haneke’s film’s, all is not plain sailing. There’s a depth and ambiguity involved. The couples’ relationship with their daughter seems distant and strained and there’s a recurring, symbolic, appearance of a pigeon that keeps entering the household. On the surface, it would seem that this film is simply an honest commentary of flailing health and fading memories but it also operates at a depth beyond this.

A deserved Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. This is sensitive, emotional and deeply involving filmmaking which tackles a part of life that’s rarely touched upon. It’s a beautiful piece of work but also the most devastating love story you’re likely to see.

Mark Walker

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40 Responses to “Amour * * * * *”

  1. Havent seen it. Gonna have to wait til it hits TV now… I dont imagine myself buying it on Blu. LOL

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  2. I’m curious about this one after hearing rave reviews about Riva.

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  3. Brilliant movie, it was my second favorite film of 2012 after The Master. Haneke’s films all are very powerful and even though this wasn’t as brutal as his other films, it still had a punch. I saw this at a film festival and actually got to meet him there. I think it’s one of Haneke’s best.

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    • Two very good choices for your top two there man, and two that I find it hard to argue with. This certainly did pack a punch. I left left completely winded.

      You got to meet Haneke? Superb man.
      I’m going to be hitting a streak of his film’s very soon. I recently purchased “The White Ribbon”, “Code Unknown” and “The Piano Teacher” so expect reviews of them at some point in the near future.

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  4. I can’t wait to see this Mark, nice review!

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  5. YES SIR! We’re back on the same page my friend! I knew it was bound to happen. ๐Ÿ™‚ You know my thoughts on this picture. It’s tragically beautiful and its brilliance is just as much in the technique as it is in the story. I can’t wait to watch this with my wife. It’s brutally honest but it’s also a stimulating example of true love. Haneke does play with us a bit but its 100% worthwhile. Your review nails it bro!

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  6. Glad to know you also like the film. I can’t wait (but can) to see it. I always think that Haneke is just f**king with us, giving us weird shit after disturbing stuff, and while Amour follows that formula (I think), I can only imagine that ending is what gives it its bite. Good review!

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    • On the surface Amour is probably Haneke’s most linear story so far. It does have it’s disturbances but nothing freaky like he’s prone to. It’s realism that shocks most. Hope you like it when you see it Nick. I’m sure you will.

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  7. Great review, Mark! I watched this in the cinema, it was an experience – so moving. I’ve been scared to give this film a write up because i worry I wouldn’t do it justice – you’ve done an excellent job ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thanks Georgina! If truth be told, I struggled to write it up as well. It’s always difficult with a film you like so much. Few reviews can ever capture it properly. Thank you for the compliment, though. I appreciate it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. I don’t think I can EVER watch this….

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    • LOL. I can appreciate that. Its not easy viewing,

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      • You know – spiders freak me out and make me squeal and gag, but I can handle them if I have to. My real fear, my deepest fear is that I’ll end up with Dementia. That’s one thing I love about this thing we do – it keeps my mind active and engaged.

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      • It’s a horrible condition man. I’m afraid of it also but I’m probably more afraid that someone close to me gets it instead. It can tear people apart.

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  9. Well written Mark. While I didn’t find it as masterful as you and many others did, I am glad it (and Haneke and Riva) has received all this recognition so far.

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    • Thanks man. Haneke and Riva certainly do deserve praise here. Fine work from them both and Trintignant was no slouch either. I thought Riva was robbed of the Oscar but thankfully the film at least took the foreign language award.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Its always nice to hear new opinions ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. Wonderful review Mark!

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  11. Good review Mark. It’s not the happiest time at the movies, but at least it’s perfectly-acted and shows Haneke in a very rare, but simple-form where he just lets the story tell itself.

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    • Cheers Dan. You’re spot on. Haneke allows the story to tell itself. He does throw in the occasional bit of ambiguity but it’s fairly straight forward for his usual style.

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  12. This does sound absolutely devastating. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I’m such a wimp when it comes to movies like this. They depress me for days on end. It does sound like it’s absolutely lovely though.

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    • It’s not easy viewing Misty but I still feel that it’s essential viewing. Just don’t expect to walk away with a big smile on your face or feelings of enlightenment.

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      • It’s going to have the same effect as the first time I watched “Pan’s Labyrinth” I imagine. I adore that movie and I walked away more depressed than I’d ever been.

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      • Well… Yeah, I’d say you probably will have a similar experience then Misty. LOL. This certainly ain’t cheery.

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  13. Great review Mark. Looking forward to seeing this but i’m preparing myself for a difficult watch.

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  14. Nice review! I loved this film, it even made me cry when I watched it. It reminded me of my grandparents, who endured a similar ordeal.

    Haneke usually tricks the audience in one way or another, but not with Amour. He lets the subject speak for itself without adding his own message, which makes it easy to connect to the film.

    I loved the concert scene in the beginning, where the camera views a full concert hall. Seeing this scene in a full movie theater resulted in a screen-transcending parallel which immediately made me feel connected to the film.

    So I guess the key word for describing my experience of Amour is connection.

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    • Yeah, it’s definitely a more linear offering from Haneke and “connection” is the perfect word to describe your experience of it. It was absolutely heartbreaking stuff.

      That concert scene at the opening was a deceivingly powerful moment. Despite all those faces in the crowd, I was actually drawn to Georges and Anne. I didn’t realise it at the time and then it dawned on me.

      I don’t think I’ll be visiting this again any time soon. It was too emotional but such a great piece of work.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  15. Wow, Mark I was totally blown away with this review, hope i could write just like you, i was too afraid to write a review with this masterpiece, thinking of Amour is just heartbreaking, that pillow scene, omfg, this is one of the hardest film i’ve seen since the grave of the fireflies, I am still torn with Django Unchained, Argo and this for my #1 Pick, and this is a fact, Argo in 10 years could be figured as ‘Crash’, And in 10-20 years, Lincoln and Amour will be truly classified as a true cinema masterpiece, it makes me love haneke so much, I would die if i could meet him, On the other side Riva, Omg, Riva Riva Riva Riva, what a fucking brave performance, watching her you wouldn’t consider her casted but it’s like she have the stroke, but Jean-Louis Triginant needs more recognition!, outstanding review!!!!

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    • First off, I just retrieved this from my spam folder. I have no idea how it got there but im glad i took a look anyway.
      Thank you for your very kind words. I found this quite hard to write about. It also consisted of a simple story, told outstandingly well and thats hard to comment on. Everything is there in front of your eyes. Is there anything else a person can say that can encapulate how powerful this film is? i don’t think so.

      Everything about this film was pure realistic class. Haneke desreves the Palme D’or for this and Tritignant and Riva were otherworldy. Riva, in my eyes, was the finest actress this year. It’s a hollywood gimmick, giving it to Jennifer Lawrence. She was great but this was Riva’s award by a mile.

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  16. Wow sounds like a great movie, I’ll definitely watch it soon ๐Ÿ™‚

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