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Georges and Anne are a couple of retired music teachers enjoying life in their eighties. However, Anne suddenly has a stroke at breakfast and their lives are never the same. That incident begins Anne's harrowingly steep physical and mental decline as Georges attempts to care for her at home as she wishes. Even as the fruits of their lives and career remain bright, the couple's hopes for some dignity prove a dispiriting struggle even as their daughter enters the conflict. In the end, George, with his love fighting against his own weariness and diminished future on top of Anne's, is driven to make some critical decisions for them both. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Greetings again from the darkness. I have often defined an entertainer as one who delivers what the audience wants, while an artist creates what he must. Writer/director Michael Haneke strikes me as a true artist in cinema. And an exceptional one at that. Known for such unusual films as The White Ribbon, Cache', and the original Funny Games (1997), Haneke often has a way of showing us things about ourselves that we prefer not to see.
Amour means love, and this film could easily have been titled Love and Misery, as strong and indescribable feelings mount when a life partner begins the inevitable slide downhill ... a trip which often starts with something as bland as a few moments of blankness at the breakfast table.
Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant, A Man and A Woman) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva, Hiroshima Mon Amour) somehow draw our eye as they sit in the audience as seen from the stage of a soon-to-begin piano concerto. It's a thought provoking shot when paired with the familiar quip "All the world's a stage ...". Next we see this octogenarian couple chatting over breakfast, clearly comfortable with each other in the manner that only two people who have shared decades together can become.
A trip to the hospital confirms Anne has had a stroke. And then another. The rest of the film revolves around Georges keeping his promise to Anne that she won't be put back into the hospital. It's a real life situation that so many face, yet the answers remain cloudy. So Georges proceeds to become caregiver to the increasingly incapacitated Anne. First wheelchair bound with paralysis on one side. Next she's learning to operate a motorized chair. Then it's speech therapy. Finally, she' bedridden and devolving into someone who can't express simple emotions. No, this is not typical Hollywood entertainment. This is life's realities through the expressive acting of two of France's best.
It would be easy to say not much happens in the two hour running, but in fact, it is filled with the daily moments that make up life. The moments become an obstacle course when we must assist a loved one in the performance, or if we are the one being assisted. Nurses who may or may not be caring, friends who are struck helpless, and even family (played here by Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher) who feel the responsibility to help, but are caught in the responsibilities of everyday life.
Death is a common occurrence in movies. Dying is actually quite rare. Haneke doesn't shy away from any aspect of this sorrowful and difficult journey. He forces us to consider the multiple sides of so many questions, and he certainly feels no obligation to provide us with simple solutions or happy endings. Georges walls off society from doing "what is best" for his wife. He prefers to honor her wishes.
These are two extraordinary performances from two of France's all-time best actors. Ms. Riva was rewarded with an Oscar nomination and Mr. Trintignant was just as deserving. Mr. Haneke has been nominated as Best Director and the film is up for both Best Foreign Film and Best Picture. Don't mistake any of that recognition as a sign that this is a mainstream movie. It's exquisite filmmaking, but many will find it difficult or impossible to watch. You best be ready to analyze death versus dying.
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