Director: Michael Haneke
Stars: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert
The first film to make me cry
I’m a nineteen year old male (straight, before you ask) and I’d never cried in a film before I saw Amour. I even rarely release a tear when I’ve had one in my eyes, which I do get often during profoundly moving scenes such as the ones in Martyrs and Up, but that tear has never been released. Actually, I lie. I did release a tear when watching Brother Bear aged 10, but that doesn’t particularly count. Amour has achieved the impossible and made me cry. And it wasn’t just a tear either, it was pretty much full-on blubbing before I had to force myself to stop in fear of looking like a total moron in front of my family who were all weirdly dry eyed.
The truth is that old love touches me. Even the scene of Leo and Marion growing old in limbo together in Inception makes me tear up! So when I first saw the wonderfully emotive poster for Amour I was interested. I watched the trailer and was even more interested. To top it all, I read that it was directed by one of my all time favourite directors, Michael Haneke! I was hooked! Then the hugely positive reviews came flooding in, and my favourite critic gave it the fill 5 stars and I became obsessed. I counted down the days of DVD release on my calendar because my stupid local cinema doesn’t like to show foreign films and when the day finally came… It didn’t disappoint.
Amour is Michael Haneke’s most human film I’ve seen. He’s wonderful at capturing the harsh realities on film like no other director. His films feature static shots, making it seem like a live stream at times, such as the scene in Funny Games where the camera remains unmoved for 10 minutes. Amour is no different. It’s long-takes capture how real and human this film really is, allowing us to focus on the characters and emotion rather than the direction. Long takes of Georges lying awake at night should touch you like no other, as it gives us time to ponder what’s going on in the poor man’s tortured head. Michael Haneke dares you not to look away as we see Anne’s physical and mental health slowly deteriorate almost unbearably. Haneke even shows how degrading it can all be with relentless long takes that dare you not to look away.
Right from its bold, horrific opening you know you’re in for quite an ordeal. In fact, that opening sequence stayed with me throughout the films length, making everything seem all that more horrifying, as you know how it’s going to end. The scene when Anne gets her first attack at breakfast is a startling one. Georges holds her face, which stares blankly and almost robotically past him which contrasts Georges look of complete horror and anxiety. It’s from here that we see Anne go downhill and it’s the fabulous screenplay by Michael Haneke which makes things all the more touching. He gives a completely un-schmaltzy view of romance making it seem all the more startling. Georges’ devotion is so heart-warming and inspirational.
The film is all the more horrible (in the best way possible) thanks to the outstanding performance by Emmanuelle Riva. Now, I can’t comment on Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar triumph for Silver Linings Playbook because I haven’t seen it. However, I highly doubt that it’s as masterful and touching as Emmanuelle’s. For most of the running time I forgot that she was acting, because she played the role with such powerful realism. The two actors also have a genuine connection together and their romance is totally believable. Throughout the second-half my eyes kept stinging like I was slicing an onion, and tears were welling up as Anne’s health reached breaking point for Georges.
Amour is full of profoundly sad scenes, but one of the saddest is when Georges is trying to give Anne a drink, but she doesn’t drink it and he says something along the lines of, “You must drink otherwise you’ll die. You don’t want to die do you?” and the answer, sadly, is yes. Yet Georges doesn’t want her to die so he tries his best to force it down her and his love for her has never seemed so strong. In fact, it was this scene which I was talking about with my Mum when I started to cry (which is ironically like the anecdote Georges tells). Michael Haneke also puts in a shocking scene towards the end that will stay with me forever.
I’ve seen many of Michael Haneke’s films (The Seventh Continent, Benny’s Video, Funny Games, The Piano Teacher, The White Ribbon) and Amour is right up there with his finest works. It’s emotionally draining and ultimately devastating. But this is also it’s most profound strength. Amour, for me, is the ultimate weepy and is probably the most touching romance I’ve ever on film. Haneke proves he’s still got it with his best film I’ve seen since Hidden. It will stick with me forever.