Review of Oscar Winning Austrian Film ‘Amour’ Starring Oscar Nominated Emmanuelle Riva along with Jean-Louis Trintignant

English: Michael Haneke Français : Michael Han...

Michael Hanake, the director of Amour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grade: A

Summary: Amour is poetry at its purest; the piano melody you hear in the film piercingly plays out the poignancy and the profound silence sings the symphony of pathos on one of the most popular theme in poetry or literature – death of a loved one.

Occasionally in Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ you hear the piano piercingly play out the poignancy of its characters. The film is about two retired music teachers but you hardly hear music; instead there is profound silence, a symphony in itself but of pathos that you find devouring the characters. What you yearn for is to hear the voices of Anne and George, happy sounds that leap up at times, like in a scene where a paralyzed Anne attempts to sing along with her husband, who gives her speech therapy, but is only able to coo ‘Dance, Dance!…’ in French. What breaks your heart is watching Anne, an accomplished piano player, unable to continue her lifelong passion – music. Not for a moment are you indifferent to ‘Amour’; you become a part of the couple’s home, which is where almost the entire film is shot, and get such a close access to all the hardships they face that you become more than just an audience member – you feel what they feel. None of the scenes in Amour are phony even though many scenes may seem familiar, and the film is more about “bereavement of a loved one” than it is about “growing old” and anyone who has read Byron or Poe knows that the former is the most popular theme in poetry and literature. And Haneke’s ‘Amour’ is poetry at its purest.

Amour doesn’t begin in silence; in fact the first thing you hear in the opening is a door being broken down by firemen to enter the couple’s now desolate house. The camera tracks a person as he moves around the rooms of the house before reaching the bedroom, where he finds the lifeless body of Anne adorned with flowers. After the scene fades out, you see the entire movie in flashback beginning with the Georges and Anne taking seats in the concert where Anne’s former pupil is playing. After the couple exits the hall, Anne’s pupil Alexandre greets them; here again the camera only moves to track Alexandre walking to the couple. The camera stays immobile during the next few scenes, allowing us to watch them the way we think of our ‘grandparents’; think about it, you’ll always have a picture of the two old people together who pass the remaining years of their lives silently, undisturbed.

It is only when Georges calls out Anne (the first time we hear her name in the film) and she doesn’t respond that the camera cuts to a closer shot of Georges –you realize as Georges does that something’s wrong. After Anne is admitted to the hospital, a mistake in the surgery paralyses the right side of her body. She makes Georges promise not to take her to the hospital or nursing home, despite their daughter Eva’s insistence, and so is taken care at home by her husband and a temporary nurse. Anne is sharp and curt to Georges whenever he tries helping her as she hates being treated ‘as a cripple’ (in one scene, she tells him “not to watch her turn the pages of her book as she’s still sane”) but as her condition deteriorates, she is unable to perform basic functions and has to be helped for everything. Her speech, memory, everything fades away slowly until the inevitable moment, which although we did anticipate still remains a touchingly unexpected one because it comes so suddenly.

We get very familiarized with the décor in the couple’s home, the array of books and files in their living room, the white lamps, the red curtain, the red carpet, the piano, the paintings etc because the camera wants us to be connected with the space. There’s even a strongly effective montage sequence of the different rooms and later of the paintings that hang in the rooms. Imagine just how Anne’s life, one ripe and lively, slowly ebbed into dismalness here as her home and later her bedroom became her only world, and without Georges’ unconditional presence and love, even this world’s little happiness would’ve been taken away.

My late grandmother spent the last six years of her life bedridden, suffering from cancer, osteoporosis and dementia, and there was nothing that could be done except give her as much care as possible. Unfortunately, her husband had already died twenty years ago and there was no one who could, in those six painful years, give her love and care that her late husband, despite his weakness, would’ve given had he been alive. I’m sure the characters in ‘Amour’ would be very familiar to many people who’ve seen their parents or grandparents in their final days (and so some people complain that the film is predictable), but Amour is a film that truthfully, touchingly, poignantly and heartbreakingly lowers its curtain upon the fading days of a being. I watched my grandmother lay there silently as long, unending days of pain eroded her life slowly, and I couldn’t do anything but watch her fade. I didn’t have the nerves to ease her pain, although the pillow just lay there…


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