Amour is not easy viewing; it’s fair to say that it’s neither entertaining nor enjoyable – but it is still brilliant.
Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play the married couple Georges and Anne. The retired music teachers are in their eighties and enjoy comfortable, apartment living in Paris. Anne suffers a stroke that leaves her paralyzed on one side of her body, leaving her in the care of Georges. Their daughter Eva (played by Isabelle Huppert) suggests Anne be taken away to be professionally cared for, but Georges refuses. He reluctantly hires some nurses to help him care for her, but ultimately it’s up to Georges to nurture Anne during that difficult time.
Georges is put to the test. He must cope with Anne’s deteriorating health, whilst remaining capable and patient in his duties. Georges’ fluctuating perseverance is expertly played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, his first film in seven years. He captures the essence of the character brilliantly, forcing empathy upon the audience.
Whilst Georges is demanding empathy, we can only sympathise with Emmanuelle Riva’s Anne, who is portrayed as a lovely woman. It’s after her paralysis that we can only feel for her and share her pain. Riva provides a phenomenal performance as a debilitated patient, completely justifying her Oscar nomination (Trintignant would have equally been deserving of a nomination).
The film explores the notion of how far someone would go for a loved one. The audience is constantly tested throughout the film, along with Georges and Anne. Their journey is the audience’s journey. Their frustrations, suffering, pain and endurance is all shared by the audience. More significantly, Georges’ patience must be shared in order to make it to the end.
Amour is very slow moving, filled with long steady shots, lots of dialogue, no musical score and it is all set in the one location, that of Georges and Anne’s apartment.
Director Michael Haneke has mastered the art of evoking emotion out of the viewer with this picture. He has purposefully made it difficult to endure and in doing so, he transports the viewer into the film. The film is set completely in their apartment and by the end of it, we feel as though we have been sitting in a corner of the room in each shot, watching.
Amour is the type of film that requires a deep level of patience and understanding to get through. It is an extremely rewarding experience for those that get there, one that resonates with you long after the credits roll.
The film was shot digitally at the insistence of Director of Photography Darius Khondji but Michael Haneke hated the look and said he spent a year in post production trying to correct the look and getting the film to look exactly as he wanted.