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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.12.12] Austria drama

Early encounters with Michael Haneke's work left me thinking that the director likes to push buttons, a filmmaker that likes to provoke audiences with movies that push boundaries. That was certainly the case with The Piano Teacher, Funny Games (both of them) and Cache but with his two most recent films, 2009's The White Ribbon and now Amour, Haneke has left behind the shock value that mark his more popular prior works for an approach that works completely on the understated. With The White Ribbon, the power was in the unspoken, in the realization of what the future holds for the children of the village and with Amour Haneke widens the lens to peer into old age, providing both one of the best romances of the year and one of the most tragic stories I've ever seen.

Georges and Anna have shared a beautiful life together. They had successful careers as music teachers, a wonderful family and are now enjoying the twilight of their lives together, taking in concerts and enjoying each other's company. They're also getting older, a truth that rings close to home when Anna has a stroke and is paralysed on her right side. The adjustment is difficult work for both of them but the couple emerge triumphant and Anna is soon walking with a cane and life returns to some measure of normalcy. Until Anna suffers a much more debilitating second attack which leaves her bed ridden and unable to talk.

There are few surprises in Amour as Haneke sets up the film's conclusion with the opening scene but how we get there is both heart warming and heartbreaking. This is a love story of two people committed to each other through thick and thin and it's all captured by a man determined to show both the good and the difficult. It's devastating to watch Anna, Emmanuelle Riva in a brilliant performance, as her health progressively worsens. She's unable to talk but in her moments of senility, she refuses food or water, a sign to her loving husband who has chosen to care for his wife with the aid of a nurse, that she is ready to go. Georges seems well aware of Anna's wishes but he holds on and there's an impressions, later solidified in an intimate scene which plays out after he finds a pigeon in the apartment, that Georges is simply not ready to be alone.

Amour isn't showy. There are moments of emotional blow-ups and a number of staggeringly powerful scenes but no part of it is frivolous or disingenuous. Haneke is a man sure of his ability behind the camera, the situations he's capturing and the actors who are bringing his story to life and there's a surety to each movement, or lack of movement, of the camera. It feels as though the audience is in the room with Georges and Anna, celebrating and suffering with them through two way glass.

It's a devastating watch, a movie that, in a few short hours, cycles through the stages of old age with a sober lens. It's certainly emotionally draining but it's also uplifting in many ways, showing the strength of love and the quiet sacrifices that are made every day. As the credits roll on Amour, there's a feeling of deflation; it drains emotion and leaves an empty shell but upon reflection, it's not nearly as depressing as one initially assumes. It's a movie I'll likely never see again but days later, I can't shake the thought that it, more than anything else I've seen this year or in recent memory for that matter, reinforces the mantra "carpe diem" because in the end, life is far too fleeting.

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firejoe (8 years ago) Reply

one of the best films this year...must see

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