FilmJuice 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.