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REVIEW – Amour (2012)

March 15, 2013

amour-2FilmJuice have my review of Michael Haneke’s Palme D’Or and Oscar-winning drama Amour.

Set almost entirely within the walls of a well-appointed Parisian apartment, Amour tells the story of a retired couple named Anne and Georges who are forced to adapt to entirely new ways of being and relating when one of the couple suffers a massive stroke. Unlike many of Haneke’s films, which present themselves as being of a certain genre only to then deconstruct the genre and mock audiences for wanting generic plot resolutions, Amour is a film that is almost entirely free of postmodern cleverness. In fact, the only thing distinguishing Amour from an old-fashioned weepy is its thematic content. This thematic content sat very close to my personal metal as I spent a number of years as my mother’s primary carer and so immediately identified with the changes taking place in Georges’ character:

Much of the film’s drama and tension comes from Georges’ troubled attempts to reinvent himself and his relationships in a way that protects both Anne’s dignity and his own humanity. Sometimes the negative emotions prompt Georges to over-react to relatively minor problems because it is much easier to fire and humiliate a nurse than it is to deal with the feeling that your life is now nothing more than medication, nappy changes and the grim inevitability of death. As Anne’s condition continues to deteriorate, we see Georges attempting to cling to any island of psychological stability he can find. For example, when the couple’s children turn up and express concern over Anne’s condition, Georges seems cold and inflexible to the point of outright insanity but in truth this attitude is entirely self-protective. As Georges points out, the tears and concerns of his children are of no practical use to him because, at the end of the say, he is the one who will be left alone to care for Anne. Better that the children keep their mouths shut than for them to offer the type of false hope that would make it so much harder for Georges to go back to his life as a solitary carer. It is in Georges’ interactions with these islands of stability that we see Haneke’s vision imposing itself upon what would otherwise be quite a traditional weepy.

Usually, one finds oneself praising Haneke for his savagery and visual brilliance but Amour is a surprisingly humane and visually simplistic film. At times, the only difference between this and a TV movie is the lack of melodramatic scoring and even this is present if you allow for the fact that the film continues Haneke’s obsession with the emotional lives of neurotic pianists. Rather than praising Haneke for his ability to be Haneke, I find myself praising him for his compassion and attention to detail as many of the details of this film could have been lifted directly from my own life.

5 Comments
  1. musicMagpie permalink
    March 15, 2013 4:18 pm

    Great blog – consider yourself followed! Loved Amour purely for steering clear of melodrama and focusing on the central relationship. Riva gave what had to be the most important, most affecting and the best performance of the year and Haneke’s skilled single-minded vision made this film one to remember.

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  2. March 17, 2013 3:32 am

    I’m sorry mate but I thought it was utter shit. There’s nothing emotive or compelling about the film, just lots of dead eye camera moments – scenes of empty corridors where characters are talking in another room etc – and a coldness that becomes unwatchable after awhile. I’m not saying it needed to be twee or melodramatic, but it needed to be human. The only human moment was when Georges slaps Riva, but by then I couldn’t give a shit anymore.

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  3. March 17, 2013 10:59 am

    Ian — I see entirely where you’re coming from and I didn’t really find it hugely moving either. I think that both the film’s subject matter and a lot of the publicity materials suggest that it’s a weepy but Haneke not only avoids melodrama but also refuses to anchor Georges’ actions in anything as simple as love for his wife.

    In truth, I think that Amour is not so much a film about death as it is about change and the dispassionate way in which Haneke engages with those themes is quite off-putting if what you’re expecting is some kind of big emotional climax.

    I really liked it because I like those types of themes and because I think it got what it feels like to be a carer absolutely spot on, but I can totally see why someone would walk away from Amour scratching their head. It’s not his best film and it’s not the film that was sold to the general public.

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  4. March 17, 2013 11:03 am

    MusicMagpie — I think that Riva, though solid, is actually quite unremarkable in this film. The problem is that we’ve become conditioned to think of attractive able-bodied actors playing ugly, sick and dying people as the absolute watermark of high quality acting (I blame Tom Hanks and Philidelphia for this). Riva certainly does a reasonable job of portraying someone who has had a severe stroke but I thought her performance ended there… it was simulation and imitation rather than acting.

    Trintignant, on the other hand, gives us an incredibly nuanced and controlled performance crowned by that amazingly sonorous voice of his. I found his character not just believable (as in the case of Riva) but also remarkably complex.

    Thanks for the compliments though :-)

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  5. March 27, 2013 5:14 pm

    Hi, Jonathan,

    Very astute review.
    Kindly allow me to translate into romanian and to post in the Romanian SF&F online magazine (www.srsff.ro/), your review of „The Windup Girl”.
    Thank you.

    Best regards,
    Cristian Tamas

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