When the Who say, “I hope I die before I get old”, holy shit, they weren’t kidding.
The story centers on an elderly couple (played by Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant) who are all happy, settled, and content with their old age. However, their loving relationship is tested when the wife suffers a stroke and the husband chooses to care for her instead of sending her away to a care-home. Sadness ensues.
Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke is a guy many people know to push a lot of boundaries and be relatively controversial with the subjects he takes on. Out of all of his movies, I’ve only seen Funny Games, but from everything else that I hear, there’s plenty more from this guy that’s left to be seen and shocked by. That’s why I thought it was so strange and out-of-his-element to make a movie about an aging couple, even if he is reaching the dog days of 70-years-old and going to have to come to terms with his own mortality very soon. Glad, I’m 19, but shit, getting old is going to suck.
Rather than giving this movie a style to dazzle the audience and to keep our attention while the material starts to find it’s footing. Haneke plays it very subtle and very straight-forward with a style that shows his knack for using tracking shots to his advantage, by not only allowing us to be mesmerized with how he keeps up with the story, but also by how he shows the everyday life of normal human-beings, no matter what the situation may be that we find them in. Seriously, there’s only 2 minutes of this whole, 2-hour flick, where we are anywhere else other than the apartment these two live-in and for the rest of those hour and 58 minutes, we feel as if we are trapped in a setting that we can’t get ourselves out of, either. It’s a very claustrophobic-feeling that Haneke brings to this film, but he never over-loads that feeling in the film at all, and instead, just lets the thespians tell the story themselves. And God, what thespians we have here.
Just like everybody else in this movie, I am very, very unfamiliar with Jean-Louis Trintignant and the previous-work in the past that he has done, but here, this guy is flat-out amazing. What makes Trintignant’s performance so powerful is that not only does he have to sit there, watch his wife’s day goes by, and try to love and care for her without losing his own patience, but try and tell everybody that she’s going away soon, and that he’s fine, but is coming down to the end of his road as well. Coming to terms with somebody’s own nearing-mortality is one thing, but coming to terms with your own and realizing that your days on Earth are limited, well, then that is totally separate thing altogether and the way Trintignant handles himself in these revelations, is a revelation in and of itself. This guy has so much going for him as an 81-year-old actor that he doesn’t seem like he has any signs of slowing-down, even in the least bit and the way he keeps things moving, when it’s just him on the screen and the script calls for him to just there, then you just know this guy is gifted. Many of you may have already knew that he was, but for a dork like me, who has never seen a movie with this guy ever before, then it was something of wake-up call that slapped me right-across the face and had me go out and venture for more of his flicks.
As great as Trintignant may be with his role, the most memorable and most difficult role out of the two seemed to be from Emmanuelle Riva as his wife, considering not only does she have to do a lot of emotional crap here, but a lot of the physical-crap as well that almost seems way too hard and way too much for an actress that is 85-years-old, but once again, I was very surprised. Rive definitely has a lot here to do with her character, considering that the side of her face is paralyzed and she can barely move, but with a disability like that, Riva still ends-up becoming the most powerful character out of this whole movie because you can feel her presence looming in every single frame of the movie, regardless if she’s in that scene or not. I seriously don’t know how Riva was able to pull-off all of the physical-stuff that she does with her character here, but she makes it believable, understood, and most of all, touching. Just like I’m going to do with her co-star, I’m going to be looking out for more of Riva’s movies and see what else this gal has to prove to me.
Now that I’ve got the cast and the director out of the way, let me get down to the hard-part by saying that as good and as powerful as this movie was, I still didn’t love it like it seems everybody else out there in the world is. My problem with this movie does not lie in it’s direction, it’s writing, or even it’s acting, it’s just how emotionally-draining it is and even though that’s sort of the point of losing a loved one through the early stages of dementia is, I still wasn’t expecting to be THIS down in the dumps as much as I was. I payed attention to this flick from start-to-finish, was intrigued by what it was saying about life, love, and all of the beautiful things in-between that make it worth living, was interested by where this story was going and how, and pretty damn amazed by what type of performances Haneke could get out of these two vets of the silver-screen, but in the end, I just sort of felt a sigh of relief come over me once the end-credits started to roll.
It wasn’t like I was finally happy that the movie was over and I could get on with my life (even though I have felt like that in a lot of movies), but it was more that I can finally be done with it and find something to make me happy, because I did not smile once here. Obviously Haneke’s intention wasn’t to make a comedy of two old people slowly falling-apart, but something here just left me upset and sad, and it’s sort of one of those flicks that come-out around this time that keeps you amazed by all that’s happening on-screen, but you still cannot necessarily say you “enjoyed it”. It’s just one of those movies you watch, you love, and you listen to a Beatles record right as soon as it’s done. Also, you be sure steer clear of bridges or any type of access to tall buildings, or ceilings. Yeah, it’s that type of a downer.
Consensus: Definitely not the type of pick-me-up you need to watch if your dog has died, but Amour is still more than just that and provides two strong, beautiful performances from veteran thespians I need to check-out more of, and a direction from Haneke that is still dark and cold, but also very subtle in the way that he lets his story tell itself without ever getting in the way of it.