It is questionable that France’s ‘Amour’ deserves the amount of acclaim it is getting, especially in light of its recent award nominations. It comes as a surprise that it has been highlighted in around 30 award events and festivals around the world, with 5 nominations just at the Academy Awards. The film, about an elderly couple’s tested love as the wife suffers through the disabling effects of a stroke under her husband’s devoted care, clearly displays a deep relationship in a serious weathering phase. But the film approaches this moving plotline in a slow and simple way that lacks the compelling pull we hope for, making the film just about as good as fairly successful 2012 foreign films, not a standout.
Michael Haneke is still an elegant director despite this film’s flaws. As we see Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) battle with what is best for his dear wife Anne(Emmanuelle Riva) after her health worsens, the camera lingers on characters deliberately for effect, from the couple’s conversation with an old piano student who is shocked to see Anne’s condition to Eva’s (Isabelle Huppert) conversations with her father over her mother’s worsening condition to Georges and Anne practicing walking in their home. It has an emotional effect, to engrain real-life wearisome exertions of body and spirit. But this technique combined with the film’s overall premise, how life is not infinite and maintaining love is an effort in itself when one slowly fades away, is not enough to sustain itself to perfection.
Although in ‘Amour’ underlies a beautiful, yet sad story, it lacks dynamic. The action is minimal and the entire movie, with the exception of an opening scene at the theater, takes place in the retired couple’s apartment. Haneke may have taken the risk to see if a film can do exceedingly well as a feature not shy in length, that takes place in nearly one setting, with few characters, and a simple yet understandable back-story, taking what is most basic to drive at the heart of the issue. In that case it succeeds in part, but needs further justification. George and Anne’s long history is evident, even without much detail. They are quietly one another’s other half. But although George calls Anne ‘dear’ and ‘my love’ and Anne looks at an old photo album and admires their memories, more endearing additions or substitutions in the script would likely have moved us to tears rather than just looking on hopefully, wishing their relationship would last forever.
Not an entirely engrossing film, ‘Amour’ is not as convincing as a whole despite the hype. It does hold complimentary aspects and is both lovely and unique at times when approaching the inevitability of aging, with a twist ending that is foreshadowed in the first scene. The acting is wonderful and the film holds some hopeful tones that with love, difficulty can be easier even though both sides suffer in their own right. And the couple’s background as established classical music teachers adds that graceful sound that handles the tragic situation less harshly. ‘Amour’ is worthy of applause and appreciation, but not necessarily for the awards.