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Cinema at its most honest and emotionally intuitive.
jamesmartin199517 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
What introduction could this film possibly require? Any film enthusiast recognises the name of Haneke instantly, whatever their opinion of him. His latest film, Amour, finally arrives in the UK this week, having won the Palme D'Or at Cannes (Haneke's second in a row) and the appraisal of most of the cinematic world. Horrible feelings accompanied me into the Friday screening of Amour – would the film live up to the hype, could Haneke really better his recent works, Hidden and The White Ribbon?

I realized about a quarter of the way into Amour that this was the wrong way to think about it. Haneke is renowned for his chilly, detached style and merciless lack of sentimentality in exploring the darker sides of human nature. Although his ruthless devotion to all things challenging and unsentimental is still evident in Amour, we must at least recognise that this represents some kind of turning point in Haneke's oeuvre.

Georges and Anne have been married many years, and have grown old together. They are both piano teachers, now retired. When we first meet them, they are attending a concert of one of Anne's old students, now grown and making a name for himself. They applaud, congratulate him and then take the bus home, smiling and talking to one another in snippets as they come closer to their apartment. If it hadn't been for a masterful, disquieting opening sequence (which I will not describe here), we would not suspect anything was wrong.

Yet after this wonderful outing, which they have obviously been looking forward to for a long time, their spacious Parisian apartment will become their entire world; we shall never leave it. There is a brief moment, masterfully shot, where the couple's adult daughter (in a beautiful performance from Isabelle Huppert, who played the self-harming protagonist in Haneke's formidable film, 'The Piano Teacher') stands by the window, and through the translucent material of the curtain we see the street outside and the vehicles moving slowly along it; the outside world remains completely impervious to the painful ordeal which is taking place on the other side of that curtain.

The ordeal begins one morning over the couple's breakfast. The two are having a conversation. Georges tells Anne something, and she suddenly becomes unresponsive. She snaps out of it, and she insists she has no memory of it; yet we sense in Anne, as Georges tells her about this strange event, a fear of something starting within her, of doctors and hospitals; there is even, glimpsed on her face for the briefest of moments, suspicion directed at her husband. It is the first event in a downward spiral, and from the moment Anne returns from the hospital afterwards, and a farce of a funeral that George is forced to attend alone, both will be condemned to this apartment. Anne begs Georges never to take her back to the hospital; thus, it becomes a prison and mausoleum; the sense of oncoming death pervades the coldly lit rooms.

Georges and Anne are played magnificently by those acting gods of yesteryear, Jean-Louis Trintignant (star of Bertolucci's masterpiece, The Conformist) and Emmanuelle Riva (the female protagonist of Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour). Hand-picked by Haneke himself, these two bring a lifetime of experience to their roles; their performances are breathtaking. Riva in particular, whose character loses her independence and her own sense of dignity increasingly throughout the film, is magnificent, not afraid of baring all to the camera. Anne's condition is not the ersatz tragedy, infused with humour and considerable taste, that Hollywood would have us believe; it is ugly, painful, degrading.

The claustrophobia of their lives, increasingly shut off from the rest of the world, is intense. Characters (including the couple's own daughter, selfish on the surface but nursing deep hurts) will come in and penetrate temporarily the organic, defensive webbing that Georges and Anne are now forming for themselves, but both the guest and the host feel that the couple's lives are being intruded upon. Theirs is a holistic, private world that outsiders try to break into; there is a great piece of symbolism, early on in the film, after Georges and Anne return from the concert, where they discover that someone has tried to break into their apartment. This couple, in the face of oncoming tragedy, hide within themselves and within this space, their own, where they have spent so many years and built their lives together.

I believe this to be the best film Haneke has ever made. Yes, it is gruellingly unsentimental, but unlike all of his other films, there is warmth, tenderness and genuine humanity to be found here. We are greeted by two highly intelligent people, who have been and remain deeply in love, and we are challenged now – not to watch the beginning of this relationship, but its end. Georges and Anne are not perfect human beings; they become frustrated, even angry. The wounds that each can inflict on the other, knowing each other inside out, hit the audience like a punch to the gut. It is part of the searing authenticity of the film, and that makes the more tender moments even more special.

Amour is a film about the disappearance of a human being; of what one man does in the face of losing the woman he has loved his whole life, every day, little by little. It is a psychological drama, tinged with philosophy and moments of exquisite, heartbreaking poetry. But it is also a luminous love story – one that is genuine and recognisable, between two characters that we fully believe in and sympathise with. Georges and Anne have spent many long, happy years together, and now, slowly and sadly, their happiness is coming to an end…
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Depressing End of a Journey
Claudio Carvalho29 April 2013
The retired piano players and teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) live in a comfortable apartment in Paris. Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) is a musician in tour through Europe. One day, Anne has a stroke that paralyzes her right side, and Georges nurses his wife and promises that he will send her neither to a hospital nor to a nursing home. Soon Anne's life deteriorates and her mental and physical capabilities decline very fast leading Georges to take a tragic decision.

"Amour" is a depressing movie about the end of a journey of a retired couple of about eighty and something years old. "Amour" has impressive performances of Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant and is developed in very slow pace, almost theatrically, and is sad to see the elder wife losing her dignity due to her physical and mental problems. I recall Emmanuelle Riva very young in movies like "Hiroshima, mon amour" or "Léon Morin, prêtre" and Jean-Louis Trintignant in the unforgettable "Un homme et une femme" or "Et Dieu... créa la femme" and seeing them now seniors make me think how short life is and made me sad. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Amor" ("Love")
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Certainly Accomplished, But It Left Me Cold
evanston_dad23 February 2013
I thought I was going to be deeply affected by "Amour," based on my experience with Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" and the film's premise. My wife and I just recently watched her father degenerate physically and mentally over the last few years until his recent death, so the closeness to me of the subject matter combined with Haneke's uncompromising approach to filmmaking made me feel sure that I would be deeply disturbed by his film.

And while I was watching it, I felt like I should be feeling that way, but never really did. It's by any definition a formidable piece of filmmaking, but it left me cold. The events depicted in the film count among my worst nightmares and are even more terrifying for the significant likelihood that I will have to experience them in some fashion. But I never forgot that I was watching actors performing in a movie. There's something about Haneke's style that's cold and clinical, and the same quality that can make his movies deeply disturbing can also make them inaccessible.

To be honest, I'm kind of glad Haneke's style kept me at an emotional distance from the film, because I think it might otherwise have been unendurable.

Grade: A-
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A sensitive and honest depiction of a profound and devastating love story
polar2423 July 2012
In 'Amour', we delve into the deepest, and most profound type of love seldom explored on screen, examined to it's uncompromising end. It is one of the most moving displays of love, in recent memory. That the couple at the heart of this film are 80-plus year old, bourgeois, retired French-speaking music teachers is surprising. That their story speaks to so many audiences worldwide regardless of their age and culture should not be, it simply reflects the universal emotions at the core of this film told with great honesty and sensitivity.

Ironically, as the title suggests, this is (not) another love story. In his most classical and refined film yet, Austrian master Haneke has once again asks questions of the audience in his own subversive, clinical, uncomfortable methods, yet (in what many see as a departure) with profoundly moving results. Some of the signature Haneke 'shocks' still remain, but this time they also carry devastating emotional weight.

Paradoxically the emotional force of the film comes from Haneke's characteristic clinical style of filmmaking: static shots, framed in mid to long distance, no score, economical and direct screenplay, however assisted by an always crisp sound design, sharp lighting and cinematography courtesy of Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris), and naturalistic and honest performances. This time however, the approach feels gentler and respectful without the standard disdain and nihilism one expects from Haneke.

Yet there remains a palpable sense of the unknown and danger as film progresses (ironically almost exclusively in their spacious and comfortable apartment) ratcheting up a claustrophobic sense of fear. The film also spends it's time almost solely on the two leads, the emotional weight they carry and the connection to the audience evidenced by genuine laughter, gasps and tears (laughter or sorrow I won't disclose) was incredibly moving for two (real-life) octogenarians that few would admit, they have more in common than they would believe.

I've not said much about the film's story - an elderly French couple live in a Parisian apartment until an unexpected event causes them to reevaluate their life - it is simple in it's construction and execution, and the emotional peaks are best experienced by yourself with a friend or family member and a receptive audience. I watched this at the Sydney Film Festival in June, about a month after it's premiere in Cannes in May for which it deservedly won with enthusiastic reception. The theatre was comparatively (and undeservedly) under attended, yet the reception was attentively silent, collectively moved.

Following the visceral and subversive Caché and the more refined and sprawling White Ribbon, it appeared that Haneke had reached a creative zenith. Almost inevitably however, and especially given with the subject matter, he has restrained his somewhat acerbic style and delivered a film that is superlatively honest and sincere in all it's creative aspects. He has given an honest appraisal of a tender human relationship that should move even the most dispassionate viewer by the often unflinching humanity displayed on screen. One of the greatest and profound achievements seen on screen in many years, this is film at it's purest and most powerful form.
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Haneke's best film to date
Sir_Alfred29 November 2012
Amour (2012) Dir. Michael Haneke

Just when I thought Michael Haneke could surprise me no more, he comes along with a film like this. A film for which the jury at Cannes gave him his 2nd Palme d'Or in four years. And nothing less than this film deserves.

The story of an elderly French couple, their deteriorating health and devotion to each other is the basis, and allows the Austrian auteur to inject something rarely if ever seen in any of his films to date, heart.

Some of the typical Haneke touches are still there; the suffocating sense that something terrible is going to happen being his signature. His previous film, the 2008 Palme d'Or winning The White Ribbon keeps up this omnipresent dread for almost its entire runtime (also see the deus ex machina in Funny Games, and continuous sense of dread in Hidden). With these films Haneke has proved himself to be the biggest audience manipulator since the greatest of them all, Alfred Hitchcock.

But there's nothing artificially manipulative in Amour. And there's none of the sentimentality less able directors would fall back on given the film's subject matter. The acting and characterisation so good that sentiment is never needed, and is in fact the very last thing you'd come across in a Haneke picture.

The emotion felt towards the two protagonists as they struggle with coming to the end of their lives actually gave me a crushing sensation in my chest by the end of the runtime. This is an extremely tough film to watch at times, and on more than one occasion I had to look away from the screen.

The biggest compliment I can give this film, is that it make me want to call my parents.

5/5 stars. #1 film of the year so far.
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A Nutshell Review: Amour
DICK STEEL28 December 2012
If I had watched this film no less than 5 years ago, I'd probably wouldn't think too much about Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winning Amour, which made him one of an elite group of filmmakers who had won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival at least twice (and within a span of three years too). But I suppose having to live through some of life's experiences, both pleasant and those that are not, would have opened up one's horizons, connect and identify with the many elements about terminal illness and suffering, love and the quality of life, being affected in more ways that I would have normally allowed.

As in most of the Austrian filmmaker's movies, this film centers around the characters of Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), an elderly couple whom we see are enjoying the twilight of their lives, and their companionship with each other, since daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) is away overseas most of the time. Unfortunately Anne suffers a stroke and more, rendering her paralyzed on one side, gradually relying on the primary care provided by Georges to get through day by day. And given Georges' age, being primary caregiver is also something of a challenge, and a stress both mentally and physically, having made a vow to Anne that he is adamant in keeping, of having no further hospital visits, or to put her in a home.

The many things that Haneke had put into his film are the hard truths revolving around the dedicated attention given to the patient, from things like feeding and the changing of diapers, doing the household chores which include enlisting the help of others in grocery shopping, to hardware requirements like the commode or the adjustable bed. There may be a certain level of shyness involved during cleaning up, and in every step of the way you want to maintain the dignity of the patient, because the last thing you want to do is to have a drop of morale. The deterioration is painful to witness, as Eva goes from having strength to being completely bedridden, with the ability of communication, a very key thing, taken away when speech impairment rears its ugly head, when therapy can only do so much. Haneke doesn't gloss over the necessary aspects of suffering, even if under the hands of uncaring home nurses, and probably introduced a little tinge of fear as one grows old, gets sick, and get put under the mercy of others.

Georges gets the periodic visits from his daughter, but you can almost feel a distant rift between the two each time they try to sit down and communicate. What Haneke's story and screenplay brilliantly achieved is to be able to say so much without saying much at all, directing the actors to bring out ideas and back-channel communication through their acting craft, making it a very fulfilling experience watching, and dissecting the human relations and condition in each of the characters, even when Eva had to spend most of her time in bed, and portraying the limited range of emotions a stroke patient can muscle together. Perhaps I too felt some guilt each time Eva returns home to check on the latest status of her mom and dad, as it mirrors how I would have loved to be able to do more, if not for modern day commitments, or what we would like to think of as commitments.

Being a Haneke film, we'd come to know some darker moments to sort of jump through when we least expected, especially so when the title is one as benign as Love in its many forms. While what was shocking wasn't something narratively new in films done by others, it still made one heck of an impact, lingering for some time which I thought was quite wicked, leaving things rich and open to post-screening debate. Haneke makes you work to come up with your interpretation of events, never telling you verbose details unnecessary to spoonfeed, preferring that you experience and take away something from it, though this was perhaps one of his less obtuse works.

What made this film was also the performances of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who hardly put in a wrong foot. Trintignant returns to the big screen after an absence of 7 years, with a role specifically written for him, which he duly delivered. His Georges came across as heartbroken and exasperated rolled into one. Emmanuelle Riva may seem to have gotten the easier role having to be in bed, and sometimes absent for the most parts as Georges keeps her Anne locked away, but credit to her fine acting without having the need to over-act or over-compensate for the condition she has to flesh out. The make up department also deserves mention for being able to realistically age her on screen as well.

Amour continues in its winning of the minds of various critics and chalking up awards in the festival circuit, as well as year end accolades. It should be interesting if it does culminate in walking away with the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar statuette next year. Recommended!
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French-language masterpiece of the year
Patryk Czekaj14 November 2012
The fact that Amour is an instant classic in the art-house world is as indisputable as the emotions presented by the protagonists of the film are bewildering. This picture is Haneke's minimalistic yet mightily expressive homage to love as we know it, showing the feeling's overpowering force and heartfelt, altruistic nature. While remaining a thoroughly unsentimental and provocative picture, Amour delivers a most-demanding portrayal of an elderly couple's last days together. Those cultivated, sophisticated characters need to evaluate their long-lasting marriage and come to terms with their own emotions, and, simultaneously, discover the true meaning of love in itself. Decisions need to be made, and some of them might be shocking to say the least.

It's a beautiful but considerable piece of filmmaking, where a sombre atmosphere and touching yet disturbing imagery permeate every scene. Haneke's steady and visionary directorial hand promises many moving and heartbreaking sequences, while still providing a poetic exemplification of a well- lived life's concluding moments. It's impossible to find neither a plausible sense of redemption nor an authentic touch of consolation, no. The film displays a marvelous character-driven narrative, where loving individuals diverge from the seemingly familiar path and start arguing with their own opinions and ideals, leading to some truly perplexing choices. In the most unexpected manner Amour touches the controversial topic of euthanasia, emphatically depicting how difficult it might seem to even consider such a harsh decision.

Amour is a tender, scrupulous, demanding, two-hour visualization of a romance well beyond boundaries, and through its difficult notions it shows human existence in its most intimate and most elegiac state. That death seems inevitable from the very first minutes is certain, but the way Haneke chooses in order to finally arrive at this intensely upsetting conclusion is an uneasy one. Amour is definitely a cinematic powerhouse, which will leave the audiences in a most pensive, quiet - even downcast - mood, still astounding with its ubiquitous beauty.
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Two human beings gradually abate into claustrophobic indignity
aequus31412 January 2013
According to Robert Sternberg's triangular theory, the paragon of love is "consummate"—complete, ideal, perfect. In this fashion of love, a couple delights in each other while defeating hardships with grace. Some might argue that aseptic concepts don't translate in the ebb and flow of reality; they would be right. Except Sternberg never said consummate was truly sustainable or permanent.

Amour surpasses consummate and escalates the inquiry; venturing into end-stage by showing us the bits that come before "death do us part".

When the movie begins, firemen break into a foul smelling apartment. A bedroom door, shut and sealed with layers of tape open to reveal the lifeless body of an old woman laid at rest. She was dressed in the finest, adorned with flowers. We are then introduced to main protagonists; ex-piano teachers Georges and Anne. Retired octogenarians with a long history of marriage who have settled comfortably into middle-class existence. The couple is shown attending a concert performed by one of their ex-students, and having a pleasant evening together—that was the last scene filmed outside their apartment.

On returning home, Georges discovers a tampered door lock. What appears to be a burglary attempt by strangers in the present, alludes to the change about to intrude at dawn.

At first consideration, Michael Haneke is an unlikely choice for stock sentimental genres. His blank, minimalistic, expressionless style of film-making; famous for detachment and cold neutrality would only aggravate the treatment of dry complex material. When one walks into a Haneken feature, expect neither theatrics nor emotions. Still shots, basic camera movements overlayed with monotonous ambient sounds only. But realistic mise en scène accentuates the intense deliberation demanded by his films (Caché, The White Ribbon). This is the principle behind those introspective pieces.

We are living in times of antipodal controversies. Pro-life campaigns against palliative medicine in the Liverpool Care Pathway saga is just one among the many that surround euthanasia debates. Rather than hanker over mission statements, Amour grazes the back door stance without overtly fixating on any specific message. And it would be perceptive to withhold from believing the central theme concerns itself with human rights because it doesn't.

This is a story about a common man and woman, what their romance is capable of enduring, and their burning departure from blessed peace. Amour makes observations behind mysterious doors; allowing you to watch as two human beings gradually abate into claustrophobic indignity. Tender, humane, poetic and heart rending.
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once again a calculated art-house bore with offending undertones
Radu_A30 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I guess I'll never understand the infatuation of the art-house crowd (and the Cannes festival in particular) with Michael Haneke, a director who did bold and ground-breaking work in the 90s but has since slipped into eclectic mannerisms that this reviewer has found increasingly unbearable. It's not just that nothing happens in Haneke's films, it's that he has been passing off artificial renditions of admittedly stylistic mastership as presentations of actual social dilemmas. If you realize, however, that there's always one particular scene in a Haneke film that the whole story has been carefully engineered to carry, then you will find yourself rather unimpressed by the stories they tell; you'll just wait two hours for it to finally happen, and feel tremendously bored in the process.

In 'Love', the subject dealt with is caring for a loved one impaired by a stroke, and it's one that I'm personally familiar with, having taken care of my paralyzed father during his last years. That's what prompted me to view it in spite of considering 'The White Ribbon', notwithstanding its laurels, one of the dullest films I've ever seen. While this doesn't make me an expert on health care, I found the ultimate 'solution' in the film offensive, even though I more than less expected such a conclusion; it's offensive because this is what intellectual people with enough money to take psychoanalytical tours of their oh-so-interesting subconscious consider the logical outcome of immense stress. And yet millions of people worldwide feed their ailing relatives with spoons or change their diapers without thinking of - I might as well relieve you of the suspense - suffocating them. Situations like these tend to take you along with them, rather than giving you Othelloesque airs.

To be sure, until that point in the film there were a lot of situations I found myself familiar with: explaining what you do to relatives who think you should do a better job while staying away from the work, trying to make sense out of doctor's comments, telling off private nurses rushing through their routine, and most of all, watching a person you were close to all your life fade away. Yes, there are moments when you crack. But not only is the breakdown - in an otherwise wonderful performance by the great Jean-Louis Trintignant - a rather obvious 'hommage' to the climax of Jean-Jacques Beineix's 'Betty Blue' (in which it's much more appropriate and hard-hitting), it's also a completely unnecessary sensationalist twist to an otherwise straight-laced, no-nonsense account of what happens to an elderly couple.

Had it not been for this, I would have left the film thinking: 'Good, Haneke is back to his original strong story-telling, even though it's 30 minutes too long'. But as it is, 'Love' is one of his calculated, constructed bore-offs catering to an elitist audience who probably put their parents in homes, and transform their guilt over such neglect into admiration for a film dealing with the subject. 'Stopped on Track', which won the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2011, is a much more honest, less calculated look at a family dealing with the prospect of death. It also has what 'Love' most distinctly lacks - heart. For that is what makes me bash Haneke's films so often: they may have brains, but no heart to go along with.
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Falling in love with death
eleni26 June 2013
This is the most optimistic film about death that I have ever seen.My feeling when it ended was "I don't feel afraid to grow old and die". The lack of sentimentality was such a relief, not that I was expecting a drama. No highs and lows, just a straight line, like death. But I never felt death surrounding the film. Rather, I felt that I was watching the early years of the couple, though they never appear in the film. Like I knew their whole life. There are not words for the two actors. I saw my parents in them,although they are completely different. And I saw myself in them. I was so touched by this film, in a unique, inexplicable way. I fell in love with the inevitability. I fell in love with growing old. And die. It made me feel safe somehow. The only drama I experienced through this film was "will I find true love?".
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It will disappoint many people, but not me…
RainDogJr9 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There's a scene in Michael Haneke's latest film (the winner of this year's Palme d'Or, AMOUR) in which one of the main characters talks about a film he saw long time ago. The main characters are an elderly married couple: (the music teachers) Georges and Eve (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, respectively). So Georges is telling Eve about a film that left him a big impression – now he can't really recall the film itself (name, its story and stuff) but only the huge emotion he felt with it not only while watching it but also while later telling someone about it.

AMOUR is a film about that emotion. If Jean-Louis Trintignant's character can only remember now, as an elderly man, what that film made him feel, then Haneke only wants that you (and his characters) feel something. AMOUR ain't a film with a big, intriguing story. In fact, it opens with the conclusion of the whole thing, which is certainly about that mentioned married couple – there's nothing much going on, besides some music concerts, until Even begins to show serious health problems (she suffers a stroke actually and soon of paralysis). Obviously we know that there won't be much hope for her.

I don't think none of these are spoilers, hell, you already guessed the conclusion to the story of Eve. Like I said, Haneke decided to go a bit non-linear with the very first shot of the film – he's telling the audience something like "yes, she dies, I'm not going to give you any hope and I just want you to feel something". And it's really impossible not to; certainly the main performers are the principals responsible for that.

If anything, Emmanuelle Riva gives one of the very best performances of the year (perhaps the best). It's a daring work that shows her huge dedication and commitment. Think in the following words that, at least according to IMDb, the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas (POST TENEBRAS LUX) said when asked about the nudity in his film BATALLA EN EL CIELO (2005):

"We are all naked when we go to the shower. At least twice or three times a day we are naked. And most of us have sex, once a week or more. It's a thing that occurs often. But it's not represented ever on film. So the normal thing to do would be to ask every other director why they don't have sex in their film and not ask me about it. I am the only normal one".

In AMOUR we deal with the whole process of a terminal illness: the preoccupation, the desires of the patient, the care giving, the desperation and well, just day-to-day issues. And Haneke is just as normal as Reygadas; therefore if you think he is not going to show a day-to-day activity like taking a shower in its pure form, well, you better think again. This is part of the reason to say Emmanuelle Riva did such a great, daring work.

Not many people are interested in watching the latest film about a terminal illness. That theme alone makes for a very difficult experience, certainly, and well, this one is even more than the average; it's almost a horror film, with truly terrifying, thought-provoking material. It left me shocked even when, like I said, you know everything right from the very beginning. You better find out why!

*Watched it on 14 November, 2012
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Dedicated to the one I love
David Ferguson20 January 2013
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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It is difficult to imagine why so many people call this a "masterpiece"
Gersh Maes22 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The fact that Amour is an instant classic in the art-house world is perhaps one of the most bewildering phenomena to present itself to me lately. It's difficult for me to even begin to criticize it.

Firstly, some will say that this film is a "mightily expressive homage to love", which shows "the feeling's overpowering force and heartfelt nature". This boggles me. It's simply baffling that this is an opinion people come away with after having viewed Amour. The focus of the movie is to present a couple's relationship in its twilight years, however it does nothing to round out this relationship. The viewers of this movie witness a mechanical, formal, and unnaturally polite relationship between two old people. We are never presented with images of their past nor any obvious sense of devotion they feel towards each other. In fact, we never understand very much about them beyond the fact that the wife is dying and the husband is burdened with taking care of her. The plot starts off shallow and deepens only marginally.

The fact that the couple's relationship is not well presented undermines every other aspect of the movie. I found it impossible to feel any deep connection or pity for these people who were strangers to each other as well as myself. The only emotion present for the duration of the movie is concern. This becomes unbearable to watch after the first half-hour.

Some will say that the director has a "visionary directorial hand". This was not apparent to me. This movie has no vision and presents nothing that cannot be found outside of a rest-home. Is it "visionary" to show an old woman urinating in her bed? Or slowly becoming senile? Or receiving assistance to go to the washroom? It takes no insight or "vision" to show these things and I cannot imagine why such displays enthral viewers. A truly good film-maker would have insinuated the trials of old age, and the oncoming of death, without needing to display them explicitly. A good film-maker would create emotions that hit home without the tactics that Haneke employed.

The old man eventually makes a point that these characteristics of old age are the things no one wishes to see. Why would the director ignore advice given in his own movie's script? Did he think he could create something "profound" and "artistic" by simply going against the norms? Did he think he could create a masterpiece by presenting unconventional, uncomfortable scenes which do nothing but cause the audience to feel queasy, or inclined to look away? Such empty shock-value will never be a benefit to a movie. It is not a tool which a good director implements. Do the people who endorse this movie also stand behind movies containing graphic violence? Or extreme sexual scenes? Do other critically-acclaimed movies rely so heavily on shock to produce emotion?

The plot of Amour is simple and could be fully explained within a paragraph of writing. The director inflates this plot to the point that it runs for over 2 hours. This is accomplished by inserting countless long- lasting shots of dull scenes. I watched a man cut the head off of every flower in a bouquet for 3 minutes when I had gotten the gist of it after 2 seconds. I gazed at an open window for 2. I watched a woman turning her head to resist being given drinking-water for 3. Again I ask, is such a reliance on filler-content the sign of a good film-maker?

Overall it strikes me as profoundly odd that a director can create a movie lacking any and all instances of character-development, drama or intrigue; a well-developed thesis; and only containing bountiful amounts of shocking imagery (scenes that any person avoids witnessing in their day-to-day life) and drawn-out, still camera shots, and become critically acclaimed. It is simply baffling. Haneke is really on to something.

This movie is meant for the type who likes to go to a theatre, watch a piece that is intensely "artsy", and then give a standing-ovation afterwards without thinking beyond the "artsiness" of the movie, and without considering the fact that it may be deeply flawed in any (or perhaps even every) aspect of film-making.
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A powerful film showcasing two of France's greatest actors
Red-12524 February 2013
Amour (2012) is a French film written and directed by Michael Haneke.

This powerful drama is basically a two-person film. Emmanuelle Riva plays Anne, a retired piano teacher, and Jean-Louis Trintignant is Georges, her husband. This elderly couple are still healthy, independent, and financially secure. When one of them becomes sick, it sets off a chain of events that is grim, realistic, and disturbing for us to watch.

The film is basically a two-character tour de force. Riva and Trintignant are on the screen in almost every scene. Other characters enter and leave the apartment from time to time, but the movie revolves around the two leads. Both of them act so well that after a while you forget they're acting.

Incidentally, Isabelle Huppert, in a supporting role, plays Eva, their grown daughter. She's also a fine actor, but the film belongs to Riva and Trintignant.

We left the theater with the realization that we had witnessed a truly great film. However, I have to admit that we were shaken by the harsh and sad reality that was portrayed.

So, if you admire great cinema, this is the movie for you. If you're looking for a lighthearted romp about aging, choose a different film.

P.S. Amour actually starts in media res. It's important to see the pre-credit beginning of the movie. Be sure to arrive early so you don't miss that scene.
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Cold, Clinical, and Heartless
monsterflick30 August 2013
Michael Haneke's wildly overrated and misunderstood "Amour" may be his cruelest joke to date, right down to the film's sarcastic title. I am a huge Haneke fan. His icy, emotionless, almost sadistic approach to filmmaking is perfectly suited to black- hearted thrillers like "Cache", "Funny Games", "Benny's Video" and "The White Ribbon". But when he applies his surgeon's knife to such human subjects as aging, illness, and death, it comes off so sour, so mean-spirited, and so surprisingly * boring *, that it's difficult to sit through. Having recently experienced the illness and death of my own parents (my mother was half-paralyzed after a stroke much like "Amour"'s heroine) I was afraid this film would be too unbearably painful for me to watch. I shouldn't have worried. I felt nothing (but boredom). The characterizations are so thin and shallow, the Old Man and Old Woman such ciphers, that they barely seem human. They're symbols, or archetypes. Having the woman's mind gone felt like a cop-out too, a way to avoid emotional truth, as did the clinical portrayals of caretaking. Everything feels so distant and calculated that I can't help feeling the title ("Love") is the director's idea of a joke.

Many critics and viewers, however, seem to find "Amour" to be deeply emotional, compassionate, and devastating. But I think they may be filling in the blanks of Haneke's bone-dry script with their own experiences and issues – which may be Haneke's real intention here. I believe he is, once again, playing the scientist and we the audience are his test subjects. (He shows an audience at the beginning of the film; it's us.) So while I must congratulate Haneke for pulling off another interesting experiment, I have to scold him this time for being even more heartless and manipulative than usual.
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A powerful portrayal of the ultimate love
Gordon-1122 February 2013
This film is about an elderly female music teacher and her husband, whose life gets torn apart by her stroke.

"Amour" is a powerful portrayal of two individuals coping with vascular dementia. We see Mrs Laurent transforming from the graceful lady to a person completely unrecognisable at the end. The husband loves her and cares for her patiently and demanding nothing in return. It is the ultimate love that people long for. The performances of them are superb, especially Mrs Laurent. I was so surprised and impressed that she could even play lower facial nerve palsy (speaking only with one side of the mouth).

It is a superb film, with amazing performances and an unnerving story. However, I could not get into the film. Maybe it is because of the barren nature of the film. The minimalistic nature of the sets and soundtracks echoes the fading of Mrs Laurent. Or maybe it is just too raw and too threatening to think that this could be our future, that my unconscious mind rejects the content of the film.
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Grim documentary-like exploration of stroke victim's journey is raised to realm of true art with surprise twist ending
Turfseer6 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't like Michael Haneke's 'The White Ribbon' as it was a fable that had little basis in reality. Haneke is on much more solid ground with 'Amour' as the story is based on experiences Haneke observed with one of his own relatives. A story such as 'Amour', which involves the deterioration of a stroke victim and her husband's valiant efforts to care for her, becomes problematic when true-life events are reproduced almost verbatim. Fortunately, Haneke mixes things up enough to keep our interest, and then throws in a twist ending of sorts, which will come as a surprise to most viewers, who likely won't be expecting such a turn of events.

The stroke victim in question is Anne, who lives with her husband, Georges, both retired music teachers. When Anne blacks out at the breakfast table one morning, Georges knows something is wrong but Anne doesn't seem to have any memory of the incident. It turns out she has a blocked carotid artery but after undergoing surgery, Anne ends up paralyzed on one side.

The first half of 'Amour' involves Georges' efforts to help Anne with her rehabilitation. He holds her up out of her wheelchair and she takes feeble steps, using her one good leg, and dragging the other. Eventually, Anne has another stroke, which reduces her to a child-like state; often, she talks in gibberish. Georges becomes more frustrated as there are moments when Anne refuses to swallow the soft food Georges is trying to spoon feed her.

Outside visitors occasionally impinge on Anne and Georges' depressing world. Early on, before the second stroke, one of Anne's students, a well-known classical pianist pays a visit and asks Anne what happened to her. She understandably doesn't want to discuss her situation, merely stating that her condition is a result of 'old age'. Later, Anne and Georges' daughter, Eva, pays a visit, and argues with her father, recommending that she put Anne in a home. Georges' reacts angrily and considers Eva's suggestion callous. It eventually comes out that the relationship between daughter and parents is not good, primarily due to her British-born husband, who apparently the parents did not care for too much.

After Georges decides to hire a second nurse, he discovers that this particular woman has been mistreating Anne (in a particularly upsetting scene, the nurse pulls Anne by the hair, lifting her face to a mirror and mocks her to the effect, 'don't you want to see your pretty face'?). Georges fires the nurse but she indignantly claims that she's never had a problem before with any of her employers and rudely curses the old man, before leaving.

It's interesting that the family doctor is never seen during the entire film. The visitors to the apartment, however, serve to break up the monotony of Anne's deterioration, not only for Georges but for the audience as well. While Haneke has managed to hold our interest until the second act crisis, he's treading in dangerous waters, as it's at this point in the film when the audience's patience is tested. Just how much more of this chronicle of Anne's downward spiral, can anyone take?


'Amour' suddenly morphs into a crime drama of sorts when the caring Georges, suddenly decides he can't take it anymore, and smothers Anne with a pillow. He prepares the body so that when the police finally arrive, Anne appears in a dignified state. He also seals the door with masking tape, presumably to prevent the foul odor from permeating the apartment. Then Georges pens a final note and while it's not entirely clear, it appears he commits suicide, to join his wife in death. Right before the note, Georges captures a pigeon that has flown into the apartment, but lets it go, perhaps symbolizing that he finally has let Anne go, by effecting the mercy killing.

If you've ever read any newspaper articles about mercy killings, where the spouse who does the killing, ends up committing suicide, 'Amour' pretty much explains why these things go on. The mercy killing also provides food for thought by bringing up the issue of keeping a comatose patient alive while in a vegetative or extremely debilitated state. It's easy to take a 'holier than thou' attitude, but when you're in a situation like Georges, do you completely condemn him for 'snapping'? And would you have been so self-sacrificing for a family member as he was? Many of us would probably have went along with the daughter's advice to place the debilitated relative in a home, thus leaving the care to others, who might have ended up as caring as the second nurse, who Georges was forced to fire.

Veteran actors Emmanuelle Riva as Anne and Jean-Louis Trintignant, are excellent as the tragic couple. I understand that Trintignant came out of retirement, to play this role (he hadn't been in a film for 14 years). 'Amour' is not an easy film to watch but it's important to remind people that illness in old age is a reality and it could happen to anybody. With its jarring ending, Haneke has managed to raise this documentary-like feature to the higher realm of true art.
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What's Left
saschakrieger3 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
We see: a concert audience from the perspective of the stage. Expectant faces, old and young. In the midst of all this, just parts of the crowd, two older faces, a man with receding hair, cautiously interested, an older woman with a glowing expression, Their eyes are on the stage but in reality their focus is on each other. They are what they have and that, one can glimpse from this long shot near the opening, is quite a lot. In the end, so the beginning of the film has told us, at least one of them will be gone and it is this long process of death and the most ultimate of all separations that Michael Haneke puts in front of us for the next two hours and he does so in the most unsentimental of ways. What he shows is love when it matters most, love that turns into pain and loss but is worth so much more than what these can take, love that is strongest when it destroys and which destroys because it is so strong. Amour is both a devastating portrait of what cannot be avoided as well as Haneke's warmest and most humanistic film. For those who only want to see one film this year, this should be the one.

Amour has all the hallmarks of the Haneke cinema. The long stills, the quiet camera movements which always keep a distance and hardly ever move into close-up, the laconic sound, the slow pace, the quietness without any dramatic outbursts, the absence of music, the subtle acting, the sense of mystery. The look at old age is harsh indeed, there is no mitigating factor to the relatively rapid decay and dissolution of a human being and the helplessness of the one left behind. Those long camera shots are relentless, they conceal nothing, neither externally nor internally. Indeed, it is the very distance Haneke creates that does not allow the viewer to hide behind sentimentality or shock, that throws what is happening straight in our faces.

And above all, it is the normality that hits hardest, for this is the normal way of life, this is how it must end, it is what we know will eventually happen to all of us and yet which none of us is prepared for. Jean-Louis Trintignan and Emmanuelle Riva play the long-married couple with astonishing dignity and warmth, a stinging tenderness and a subtlety that makes them almost painfully real. We can see the life, the enthusiasm, the knowledge gradually disappear from Riva's character and we are left as helpless as Trintignan's.

There is a constant sense that he cannot survive this loss of so much that he has been and yet, again Haneke does not employ any dramatic tricks and techniques, he just unfolds the growing emptiness in this large and aged apartment in which the film, which the exception of the concert scene, never leaves. And as the life gets sucked out of it it is filled with a stifling heavy emptiness which makes the big space feel somewhat claustrophobic, the absence getting stronger and stronger and swallowing all there is until there is nothing else left.

As hard as Amour is to bear at times, it also carries more love and warmth and affirmation of life than most of his other films combined. For the loss only feels so unbearable because it is so much that is being lost. In a way, Amour is a relative of Andreas Dresen's Halt auf freier Strecke, a totally unsentimental portrait of death and loss that is first and foremost also a celebration of love and life.
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Terrible. One of the worst films I've seen this year.
JR .19 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
You've heard the hype about Amour right now. Not only one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, but a foreign film that gets a Best Picture and Best Director film has to be great, right? Not so fast. This film to me is a colossal failure and misstep. Let's start with the most obvious reason. The film is called Amour, translated to Love in English. As a film about a man holding onto his mentally and physically fading wife, one should expect a lot of love shared from him. But the opposite is true. Amour is a totally emotionally detached and COLD film. In fact part of me wonders if Haneke intended for his title to be ironic, by making his characters NOT have much love between them, as emotionally disconnected souls. Certainly their weak relationship with their daughter would fit into this theme. Regardless though, the two principle characters being cold and clinical made this a very unenjoyable watch to me. I did not like these people very much and I did not feel a strong relationship between them. Obviously in a film with this plot, a strong emotional relationship between its characters would seem critical and this film misses in that area.

But as a whole, my main problem with Amour is how clinical it feels. I always felt the presence of Michael Haneke in this film and I don't mean that in a good way. I always felt like I was watching the film being directed and filmed. The dialog felt rather forced and unorganic to me as well, a major problem in a film that aspires to realism. To give an example of a microcosm of the film's problems, a few times in the film the Jean-Louis Trintignant character George has a pigeon fly into the apartment. The first time he chases it away, but when it comes back after his wife had died, he catches in a blanket and embraces it. Get it - the pigeon represents George embracing his wife's and his future death, first he doesn't want to accept it, then he embraces it! If this sounds forced and eye roll worthy to you, it's because it is. Now the pigeon scene doesn't hurt the film that much, in fact it's kind of fun to see JLT chasing it around, but the entire film is made with the mindset of that film. Haneke calculating his cinematography and dialog to try and force his 'relationship' between the leads on you and his messages about embracing death. Despite great performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, it never gets past the less than natural way Haneke films this But as a whole, my biggest gripe with the film comes down this: IT IS BORING. IT IS VERY VERY BORING. In part because of the lack of emotional resonance I suppose, I did not feel involved with the story much. I'll even admit that as someone who watched it on a screener on my laptop, at times during the film I was surfing websites online just to make the film go by faster. That's the sign that the movie failed. Amour could've been a great film but in the end it's a calculated, on the nose bore that I have no interest in ever seeing again.
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Best Love Story since "Eternal Sunshine"
Clayton Davis8 October 2012
It was bound to happen. A film encompasses the soul and meaning of love and executes the physical and emotional demand it requires to be told effectively and correctly. That film is Michael Haneke's Amour. Haneke steers the film effortlessly, as if he were telling a shot-for-shot story of his own experiences. He constructs and creates two real and authentic people, Georges (Jean-Louis Tringnant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva). It's wonderful to see Haneke allow the powerful leads to feel and interpret these people of their own accord. It's one of his finest writing efforts of his career. Tringnant's heart is visible and available for all the viewers to see. He's fearless as he walks through the film frail and broken yet confident and composed. He challenges the audience to empathize and question our own reactions and reality. Same goes Riva, who does everything right that was wrong with similar performances like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004). Riva goes above and beyond the call of duty, wearing Anne on her skin with vulnerability. It's one of the great performances of the year by any woman in any category. The two leads together is even more brilliant than when they're apart. Adding in the talents of Isabelle Hupert as Eva, the daughter of our married couple who finds her own love tested, is wonderfully operational. While many will chalk this film up to depression and elderly inevitability, I don't share the same sentiments. The film is front to back about love, pure and simple. The events circle a morose and saddened sequence but Georges and Anne is the great love story of the year. The film dares you to find someone you love that much, in both perspectives. Haneke focuses on the couple with no outside stories of their neighbors, life before these events, or extra characters. He puts them in the spotlight, front and center. Amour could be the best film of the year and is the best film of the New York Film Festival so far.
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It's not a masterpiece , but a fraud - Cold , empty , pretentious , boring
Maziun20 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS*SPOILERS I totally agree with Gersh Maes review of this movie. It's hard for me to imagine that anyone with eyes and brain would call this a masterpiece. It was a HUGE disappointment for me after all those positive opinions . One of the most critically acclaimed films of the year, but also a foreign film that gets a Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nomination and wins at Cannes festival. To be honest I don't really care about all those movie awards . They don't really mean anything to me. I have my own opinion which is often completely different than what critics say. This movie is a perfect example that the lovers of "artistic" cinema will watch any piece of s*** that pretends to be real art and call it a masterpiece without even thinking about the real quality of what they saw.

"Amour" is a simple story of two old people. Old man is taking care of his sick old wife. Love and death. Two great themes that I was interested to see what director Michael Haneke has to say about them. I was sad and angry that he didn't had anything to say , but only pretended to be smart and delicate. A homage to love ? A movie about embracing death ? Don't make me laugh.

"Amour" is a cold and emotionally detached film. It makes you wonder if the title isn't ironic. The relationship between two old people here is completely mechanical, formal, and unnaturally polite. There is simply no chemistry or love between the two people , only concern. I didn't saw two people devoted to each other , only actors playing their parts. What is worse that we never do really learn anything about them , their past , their dreams. There is no emotional connection between the viewer and the characters. There is no character development for any of this characters through all (2 hours long) movie. They were complete strangers for me to the end of the movie . The movies feels clinical. I felt Haneke's presence through all the movie. I was watching a movie where people were directed and filmed , not experiencing a real life .

The plot starts off shallow and deepens only marginally. There is no real conflict , despite the fact that Haneke tries desperately to include some with the character of the daughter of old people. The ending is obvious from the beginning and makes me wonder if the pro-euthanasia message of the movie is the reason why the critics loved "Amour" so much ? It was basically a propaganda film for assisted suicide. Oh , and the scene with the pigeon is just cheap symbolism.

There are scenes that are just a cheap way to manipulate audience into any kind of emotional reaction. Haneke for example shows old woman urinating in her bed or receiving assistance to go to the washroom. It's an empty shock value. If Haneke wanted to show the trials of old age he could and should be subtle.

There are also scenes that aren't anything else , but a filler from the beginning shot of the audience sitting in the theater. Man opens a window , man washes the dishes , man writes a diary or last will, man cuts flowers. ALL of these scenes are 3 minutes long . Why ? It's completely pointless. 5 seconds for each of these scenes would be more than enough. There is no need to make them so long ! The whole movie could have been 1 hour long , maybe even 30 minutes long. "Amour" is slow and long , because EVERY MOVIE which is slow and long is ART , right ?! This is a movie for all those pretentious snobs who like "artsy" movies and watching them makes them feel better than rest of the world. This is just your usual art-house TOTAL bore. For me it was the biggest disappointments of 2012 and in my whole life. I give it 1/10.
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Love, life and death
msmith548428 November 2012
This is a beautiful movie about the end of life. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are excellent as Georges and Anne. Their story is nothing new, we've seen it before (like most stories), but it is told with poignancy. This is a character piece that could be a slog for some. There are a few extraneous scenes that make the 127 minute film feel longer but, though the story takes place almost entirely inside their apartment, I never felt the sense of claustrophobia. There is an intimacy that at time's made me feel I was watching the couple from across the courtyard from my own apartment. It is a true statement of love between a husband and wife.

I must say I felt a little betrayed by the trailer. It depicts what I take to be a much darker narrative, almost sinister and the word 'attack' in the synopsis doesn't necessarily allude to a medical condition. I think I'd like to see that movie a little more.
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'Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over.'
gradyharp22 August 2013
Michael Haneke wrote and directed this extraordinary film that so sensitively explores the soul and meaning of love, and his formidable talent executes the physical and emotional demand it requires to be told effectively and correctly. This is a film of quiet sophistication and respect and will likely stand as one of the greatest love stories ever placed before the public in a film.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are a couple of retired music teachers enjoying life in their eighties, attending concerts where Anne's pupil Alexandre (Alexandre Tharaud) is performing the Schubert Impromptus. In their comfortable home they enjoy each other's sensitivity and pleasures, but one morning at breakfast Anne suffers a TIA from which she seems to recover rather quickly. The moments of Anne's silence and lack of response trigger a sense of panic in Georges, and despite the fact that she recovers, he takes her to the hospital. Anne undergoes a carotid endarterectomy but the surgical result is a failure (she is one of the 5% of failure rates). Returning home with a right hemiparalysis 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 Eva (Isabelle Huppert), also a musician, 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. The couple's bond of love is severely tested but then breathtaking conclusion radiates the power and durability of true love.

Both Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva offer impeccable performances, and Isabelle Huppert adds a superlative supporting role as the daughter who does not seem to fathom her parents' love. The musical score is devoted to Schubert's Impromptus Nos. 1 and 3 and Moment musical No. 3, Beethoven's opus 126 Bagatelle No. 2 and opus 33 Bagatelles Nos. 2 and 4 and the Bach-Busoni Prelude Chorale 'Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ' - performed by pianist Alexandre Tharaud who also plays himself in the film as Anne's pupil. Every aspect of this film is treasureable. It is one of the most beautiful films of the time. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, August 13
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Exquisite and moving
RolyRoly3 September 2013
It's no surprise that Amour garners strong and polarized emotions from viewers. As both a director and writer, Haneke plumbs the dividing line - often the gulf - between what do and say, and what we feel. As someone about to turn the corner into what some consider to be old age, and perhaps overly daunted by the subject matter, it took me some time to build up the courage to watch this film. As a good friend said after he'd seen it, Amour is a film that you must see, but that you will probably only want, or need, to see once. But see it you must.

The genius of this film lies in the fact that it doesn't rely on any cheap cinematic or emotional shortcuts. We see this elderly couple for what they are: refined, often distant from one another and from their daughter and their star pupil, perhaps a bit smug, even snobbish. Their relationship is not the stuff of teary-eyed sentimentality.

For virtually the entire film we live with Georges and Anne in their comfortable but decidedly stuffy Paris apartment. The claustrophobia that they must feel, confined to a small space by Anne's deteriorating health, is reinforced by the fact that we never even see out their window, though the window does play a pivotal role in the film symbolic motif. Contrast that with another one of cinema's greatest apartment-bound films, Rear Window, in which we spend virtually all of our time looking out onto other people's lives. Here, we're forced to look relentlessly inward. We asked, in effect, to examine our own feelings towards love and death, to decide what we would do, how we would respond.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva give astonishingly restrained and sensitive performances. There are lengthy passages in this film in which they live their lives in utter silence, but what eloquence there is in that quietness. There is not a single false note, not a turn of the head, or a word of dialogue, that rings false.

Haneke has made three of my favourite films of all time - Cache, White Ribbon and now this. They couldn't be more different. Amour is the work of a true artist.
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Vivid mise en scène and rich performances
theredraylives12 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Amour is a film for film-makers and is a film student's dream. It is the kind of movie that demands analysis over and over for its dense symbolism and wonderful structure. It makes some really odd choices, but overall writer/director Michael Haneke knows exactly where he's putting the camera and why, and every shot on the screen oozes purpose. Foreign films don't often gets nominated at the Oscars outside of the best foreign film award, let alone for best director and a best actress nomination for star Emmanuelle Riva, but Amour is moving, brutally honest cinema about love, life, sacrifice, and death. NOTE: Spoilers to come. A lot of them.

The aforementioned Emmanuelle Riva stars in the film as Anne along with co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges, a couple of retired music teachers in their eighties enjoying their quiet little life together. The film takes a turn when Anne suffers a stroke, paralyzing her right side and forcing Georges to take care of her. The attack puts a strain on their relationship, with Anne falling increasingly ill and wanting more for her husband than to take care of her, and with Georges ever-loyal and willing to do anything to make her well again.

The performances by both Riva and Trintignant are simply spectacular. There is a love and devotion between these two characters that goes beyond words and it is bright and alive in the air between them at all times. Most enjoyable are the scenes between the two just looking at one another, such as Georges attempting to feed Anne and give her water; the look on Anne's face is one of such excruciating pain. The real crime is Trintignant being overlooked at the Oscars for his amazing performance; he is every bit as spectacular as Riva is, and their performances compliment one another perfectly. Truly, one would not have been possible without the other.

The film co-stars Isabelle Huppert as their daughter Eva, a far smaller role but a character just as large as the other two. It is fantastic to see her evolution as a character, and how her mother's deteriorating health commands more and more of her attention as the film goes on. Alexandre Tharaud plays Alexandre, a former student of the couple's who has gone on to great success and fame.

The amazing acting, however, is only a small portion of the very large picture that is Amour. It owes everything to the script from Haneke and to his careful direction. The camera-work is a bit jarring at first; shots remain steady for quite a long time, looking at characters from behind or from the side, keeping things out of focus, and keeping its distance; an interesting choice that serves to truly isolate Anne and Georges. In some scenes the camera-work is deliberately meant to make the viewer almost uncomfortable; others, it serves to illustrate the slow, stagnant lives that the two of them live. The viewer is only allowed certain access to these moments, the minutes that make up these lives. Georges and Eva have a discussion about her relationships and career- Georges has his back to the camera, while all the viewer can see is Eva. Haneke closes the audience off emotionally from Georges, forcing them to wonder with him at what happened to Anne in the prior scene.

Amour also uses beautiful symbolism, in many ways but most specifically in the form of a pigeon twice arriving at Georges and Anne's home. The bird finds its way in through an open window, popping about the apartment- the first time through, Georges shoos it away, chasing it back to the window and out of the apartment. The second- after Anne has already passed away- he captures and cradles closely in his arms. In both of these instances the pigeon represents death, passage into the afterlife- he wants more than anything to keep his wife alive, and make her well again, and chases the bird off. Once she has passed, however, there is little left on Earth for Georges, and he embraces death to join his beloved Anne.

There is too much to say about a film so richly layered and this review barely touches the surface. Amour is a moving film about real love and real life and the struggles that love must endure. It certainly isn't a blockbuster, it can be a bit slow and a bit jarring at times- the camera is unforgiving, and the characters grow more and more haggard as the movie goes on. Yet it is, to its core, a testament to the beauty and unending power of love that transcends this or any other life. Its performers simply live and breathe these characters for two hours, but I promise they'll stay with you for a very long time after.
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