It is at the beginning and the end when life stands in high relief. Mothers and fathers are overwhelmed with love when a little one comes into their world. When couples last for decades and are in their golden years, the inevitable decline of one or both becomes a tragedy which must be endured. "Amour" (Austria, Germany, France 2012) is an intimate look at the lives of Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Ann (Emmanuelle Riva), both in their 80s, as they face the inevitable. What sounds like a dreadful premise instead is a touching and intimate look at a couple struggling with life's end and the concomitant loss of dignity.
Both are retired music performers and teachers, and their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert), who lives abroad, is also a musician. As the film opens, Georges and Ann are at a concert enjoying a piano performance by one of Ann's former students (Alexandre Tharaud). They return to their elegant apartment and the film focuses almost voyeuristically on the tiny moments of their lives.
At breakfast, Ann is dazed for a moment. Georges senses something profound. But, she becomes herself again, not knowing that life as she and Georges have known it is about to change forever. Eva eventually shows up, dealing with the pragmatics of her mother's declining health, paying scant attention to her father's despair.
Haneke's approach to this experience ensures that many will identify with the story and the emotions. When recently interviewed by Salon writer Andrew O'Herir, Haneke makes it clear he has no intention of providing answers to the dilemmas faced with aging and loss. He explains, "Art doesn't offer answers, only questions." Note that "Amour" is filled with references to art, from the music at the symphony, to that heard in the apartment, to the beautiful paintings on the walls of the elegant home of Georges and Ann.
Actors Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Huppert each have a long history of extraordinary performances in films, and their talents shine in "Amour" as well. Check out the slideshow of still shots (above) and the trailer (below) for a suggestion of the beautiful cinematography, attention to detail, and exquisite understated acting.
"Amour" is competing with "Lincoln," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Argo" and several other films for Best Picture for the 2013 Academy Awards (airing February 24th). It is also in contention for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director, and Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva) after winning 28 awards in various world wide film award events, including the coveted "Palme D'or" at Cannes in 2012.
"Amour" just opened in the Portland area. At this point it is playing exclusively at the Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10 Theaters at 846 SW Park Avenue in downtown Portland. Check the website for screening times and ticket prices.