Georges and Anne, retired music teachers still active in their eighties, live a comfortable, long-established rhythm evolved and nurtured over decades. So in tune are they that we sense each tiny action involved in preparing breakfast, winding down the day, reading the parlor, as a step in a glorious dance undertaken by two now incomplete without the other. And then one morning over breakfast, for two minutes, Anne goes… elsewhere. Thus begins the journey of caregiver and cared-for, the journey together toward separation ~ separation from one’s past, one’s self, one’s other, one’s life itself.
Riva is [very rightfully] receiving the awards accolades given the remarkable skill required to portray the physicality of Annes’ situation (one utterly forgets she is not, in fact, stricken), but not to be overlooked is the equally deserving Trintgnant as Georges, the primary holder of the titular bond. We’re graced with brief glimpses as to why Georges loves Anne so, see clearly that it’s mutual and know that were the roles reversed the response would be identical, but the love being walked out before our eyes, the love that shows up in the moment, the love willing to do anything deemed necessary on the beloved’s behalf, is Georges’ alone, and through Trintgnant never once do we step outside of it.
Writer/Director Michael Haneke’s achievement here is in giving us the not the story of what’s happening, but the story of what’s going on. And there’s one hell of a big difference, as anyone who’s been in such a situation can attest (I haven’t quite, but I know I speak fact, know this from this film, without doubt).
What’s happening is that Anne is failing, is frightened, and is requiring increasing levels of care ~ and gloriously, we never see it directly, in clinical depiction. Instead, we see the pair’s experience of what’s happening, and that’s what’s going on. It’s not that Anne can’t properly use her hand, it’s Anne’s experience of the loss of ability and control; it’s not Georges’ reaction to diagnosis and prognosis, it’s Georges’ emotional response to what’s befalling his beloved, and his mental response in steeling himself to protecting her as best he can from what he knows is coming.
Finally, Haneke concludes with an ending that surprises, jars, and rather than putting a period on the proceedings, leaves us free to carry forth the open emotional space to which he’s brought us.Truly a brilliant film in every way, and I’ll leave it at that; somehow to diverge into a discussion of filmmaking technique would equate to discussing the particulars of Anne’s physiology… the power of the practical brings us to this point, but the power of the personal eclipses it entirely, thereby proving its point.
"Amour" is, admittedly, an exceptionally tough beat. And it’s a tricky one to put out there, given that the world is likely comprised primarily of two audiences: 1) those who haven’t experienced it and thus can’t relate or have no interest in trying to do so because it isn’t relevant to them personally, and 2) those who have experienced it/are experiencing it and [understandably] have no interest in re-living it.
So why see it? Even for the stellar performances, why put oneself through it? I could only imagine, and a fellow reviewer who’d been there confirmed, that being in the know and witnessing this would be little less than excruciating. But I use the word witnessing vs. the word watching with all deliberate intent: if you’re in Audience #1, see this film because it tells the story of someone you know, right now, and you’ll be a better person for the understanding; besides that, Amour is a remarkable film and should be seen on execution criteria alone. And if you’re in Audience #2, ask a trusted friend first (it might hit too close to home), and perhaps at some point, come see your Story told. And in any case, know that we all now know it.