Amour opens with a morbidly elder woman lying on the bed cold. No movement, no sound, just sadness, shortly followed by the film’s title card, Amour – which perhaps suggests that death and love are the only two constants left in society.
Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke designs his latest Palme d’Or winner with simplicity and sincerity. In a time where the idea of marriage has become futile, creating a story around Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), two married and retired music teachers in there 80s, is brave. Even more courageous is how Georges responds to the sudden sickness overtaking his companion. The entirety of the right side of Anne’s body becomes paralyzed. While both are cultivated, intelligent individuals, Georges (fulfilling his duties as loyal husband) cares for his lover tenderly.
If the film becomes monotonous with one scene after another filled with anguish, chronicling the incurable deterioration of Anne, consider that a vital element of the narrative. Haneke leaves no interaction unexamined as we’re presented with perpetual heartache, demanding that we recognize what Georges must endure. Imagine a lifelong marriage being reduced to an uncontrollable illness.
Added to the mix of continuous agony is the lifelong couple’s daughter Eva (Isabbele Huppert), a practicing musician who’s attempting to cope with the imminent death of her mother. She stops by when Georges allows it. Equally heated and depressing confrontations ensue on her arrival. The three characters manage to make the audience contemplate grand ideas of what it means to be in love, and where we go after death. As Anne’s disease evolves she begins to loose hope in living. Georges, with unflinching, unabashed devotion to his wife, refuses to let go.
Amour is unquestionably a difficult film to intake. The thematically dark components don’t necessarily make for the liveliest of cinematic experiences (and admittedly the film could use some editing in the second act). But Haneke makes no pretense of his intentions and ambitions here. While my admiration outweighs my affection for Amour, it’s the type of metaphysical mediation on marriage, love, and death that insists, allows, and rewards introspection.