Michael Haneke. The name alone should prick your ears up and pay attention. He’s one of the most provocative, intelligent and polarising film makers working in cinema today. With a catalogue of films including FUNNY GAMES, THE WHITE RIBBON, THE PIANO TEACHER, HIDDEN (CACHE), THE CASTLE (German), he has no problems posing uncomfortable and bruisingly honest character studies and situations in front of his audience. Haneke is constantly winning awards for his flicks but for his latest AMOUR, the groundswell started way back in Cannes where it took the PALME D’OR and has pretty much been collecting gongs ever since. And it’s all totally deserved.
AMOUR tells the story of Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) & Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), a couple in their 80’s, they are renowned music teachers who live with their grown daughter (Haneke frequent collaborator Isabelle Huppert) and life is a bliss of normalness. When Anne has a stroke the bonds of their marriage and love are put to the ultimate test.
For a film that essentially is a 2 hander between Trintignant and Riva in their apartment, AMOUR is one of the most tender, intimate and emotionally engaging films I’ve seen in recent years. This is unrelenting, it grabs you by the cockles of your heart and squeezes. You’re on the journey of the end of a loved life and you are right there, front and centre to experience it all.
The whole film hinges on Georges & Anne and both Trinitgnant & Riva deliver the two best performances of the year – in particular Riva who is just spectacular as the ailing Anne. You feel everything here – the frustration, the fear, the compassion and the hopelessness of watching two people who’ve loved each other their whole lives come to the realisation that it’s all ending.
But this film doesn’t set out to manipulate you into making you feel sad, instead Haneke’s insistence on not being sentimental has delivered such an eloquent character study that you are more challenged and urged to explore this subject rather than be hamfistedly told that you should be upset (for an example of that method see MY SISTER’S KEEPER – one of the most repugnant dramas to come out of the Hollywood machine). There’s no overbearing score, no cliched projected plot devices. This is just two people facing the toughest time in their lives.
Yes I was bawling my eyes out by the end of this, yeas I felt like I had my heart ripped out, stamped on, put in a doggy bag and handed back to me but that’s the power of Haneke. Only he can deliver such an emotionally intelligent and powerfully heartfelt sledge hammer to audiences.
AMOUR releases in AUSTRALIA on FEBRUARY 28, 2013 through PARAMOUNT/TRANSMISSION FILMS