Monday, January 07, 2013

Amour (2012 film)

Written and directed by Michael Haneke, Amour is the story about the love of an elderly couple when a man tries to deal with his wife’s stroke that left part of her body paralyzed as he becomes desperate to take care of her. The film is an exploration into the world of love and one’s devotion to another. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Huppert. Amour is a mesmerizing yet powerful film from Michael Haneke.

The film is essentially the story of an elderly couple named Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) who live their life together until Anne has become catatonic having Georges believe something went wrong. After a surgery that has left Anne paralyzed, Georges makes a promise to not send Anne back to the hospital as he does whatever it takes to care of her despite her worsening condition after another stroke and the insistence of their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) to send Anne to a home. The film is about one man’s devotion to his wife as she starts to deteriorate in front of his eyes where he eventually realizes that she isn’t going to get better. Yet, he makes a decision about what to do with themselves knowing that she isn’t going to return to who she was once was.

Michael Haneke’s screenplay doesn’t really have much of a plot as it is really about these two people and their love for each other. Yet, the film doesn’t really begin with a traditional opening but rather at the end. It’s a strange way to open the film but it is then followed by more happier times when Georges and Anne attend a concert for an old pupil of theirs that establishes who they were. Suddenly, the film goes back into a more serious mood with bits of light humor as it revolves around Georges trying to help out his wife with what she would have to endure in her condition. For Anne, it becomes overwhelming as she finds herself becoming a burden as she deteriorates to the point of incoherence. While there’s moments of frustrations for Georges, he remains devoted but still has to deal with not just what people tell what he should do but also with their opinions. For him, nothing else matters when it comes to Anne as he has made a vow to her that is more sacred than anything else.

Haneke’s direction is very restrained for the most part as he doesn’t do a lot of camera movements nor anything stylish. Instead, it’s quite straightforward in its framing where Haneke is more interested in how the couple live their life and do things on a daily basis. The way the actors are positioned definitely says a lot in the framing while Haneke doesn’t go for a lot of close-ups. There are few moments where the camera does move in some parts of the films for the character of Georges to move around. Yet, it is mostly told in a simple manner where the drama does increase as it progresses to emphasize Anne’s deteriorated state. Things do get more intense though the drama remains restrained as it does lead to a very poignant ending about loss as well as the ideas of life. Overall, Haneke creates a very heart-wrenching yet uncompromising film about love.

Cinematographer Darius Khondji does excellent work with the film‘s photography as it largely takes place inside the apartment with some very low-key yet lovely lighting schemes to set the mood without delving too much into style. Editors Monika Willi and Nadine Muse do superb work in the editing by not employing a lot of style to the cutting while using some effective cuts for some of the film‘s key dramatic moments. Production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos and set decorator Susanne Haneke do terrific work with the look of the apartment that Georges and Anne live in that is filled things that are part of their life.

Costume designer Catherine Leterrier does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual to display who the characters are. The sound work of Jean-Pierre Laforce and Guillaume Sciama is wonderful for the intimacy of the scenes that includes some very haunting moments of Anne crying out for Georges in some parts of the film.

The casting by Kris Portier de Bellair is brilliant for the small ensemble that is created as it includes appearances from Alexandre Tharaud as an old pupil of the couple, Rita Blanco as the concierge of the apartment, Ramon Agirre as the concierge’s husband, and William Shimell as Eva’s husband Geoff. Isabelle Huppert is excellent as Georges and Anne’s daughter Eva who grows increasingly concerned for what is happening to her mother as she also deals with what might be coming.

Finally there’s the duo of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in outstanding performances in their respective roles as Georges and Anne. Trintignant displays a chilling performance to a man desperate to help out his wife while dealing with everything else around him where Trintignant maintains this great physicality to his role as a man that is devoted to his wife. Riva’s performance is just astonishing to watch from the early going as a woman who is quite lively to someone who is deteriorating physically as she is unable to have any movement in the right part of her body and then just completely unravel as it’s a very unsettling to watch. It’s a very brave performance for the legendary actress in the way she reveals a woman losing herself and clinging to the man who loves her.

Amour is an incredible yet poignant film from Michael Haneke that features magnificent performances from Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. While it may not be in par with some of Haneke’s more darker films, it is still a film that is engaging as well as a drama that explores love at its deepest core. Notably as it explores an elderly couple being tested by something horrible as well as the specter of death. In the end, Amour is a tremendous film from Michael Haneke.

Michael Haneke Films: (The Seventh Continent) - (Benny’s Video) - (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance) - Funny Games (1997 film) - Code Unknown - The Piano Teacher - (Time of the Wolf) - Cache` - Funny Games (2007 film) - The White Ribbon - Happy End

© thevoid99 2013

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review Steve. Amazing performances from these two, the only problem I had with the flick is that it's painfully slow and emotionally-draining and after awhile, you really feel like you're being tortured.