Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published September 18th 2012
Anyone familiar with Michael Haneke's work will know that watching one of his films is no skip through the park. So his take on an elderly couple facing the sceptre of death shouldn't be mistaken for Cocoon 3. Instead, expect to be confronted with disease, palliative care, physical deterioration, familial politics, social unease and all sorts of unpleasantness.
If you're up to it though, Amour, as the title suggests, rewards with an intimate portrayal of a couple who have shared everything in life and whose identities are inexorably intertwined. Watching the husband confront the impending death of his wife, devoting himself to her and maintaining her dignity to the end, is an intense and harrowing experience.
Amour echoes Haneke's The Piano Teacher in many ways. The most obvious being the presence of Isabelle Huppert in both films, but also the constant presence of classical piano – the female lead character here being a former prestigious piano teacher.
Performances are key to the film's success, and two icons of French cinema, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are both very affecting as the life-long companions. Amour became Haneke's second film in a row to win the Palme D'Or at Cannes, a feat only achieved by two other directors in the festival's history.
This is a film full of moments of great tenderness, raw emotions and wrenching sadness. The Austrian helmer isn't one for big Hollywood exclamation marks, and as with previous works like The White Ribbon, and Hidden, he achieves maximum impact through restraint and understatement. And as always, he ends on a note which will provoke much discussion.