Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love and Old Age: AMOUR


Written & Directed 
Michael Haneke

     Old age is rough. We all know that our own mortality will catch up with us at some point. There is no questioning that, but to have someone you are connected to during that life is indescribable and beautiful. The hard situation is that this person, spouse, partner, friend sooner or later will pass away or you will, and the range of emotions will be over powering for each person. Michael Haneke's devastatingly magnificent Amour channels the depths of patience, heartache, pain, frustration, and profound, unflinching love. Amour is a master class in simple, graceful filmmaking and story telling. A film that is both difficult and mesmerizing in its approach to two souls coping with impending loss and enduring love.
     The film is about death and how it effects people. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as aged married couple Georges and Anne. They are former music teachers and our in the remaining years of their lives. The film opens with police breaking into an apartment that has been sealed with tape around the doors from the inside. As police walk around you see them holding their noses since an unbearable stench is present. They open windows to air it out. Once a bedroom door is opened we see an elderly woman precisely placed, lying on a bed with a black dress and flowers dressing the outside of her body. We see the end result of this film and our gripped with the reality of death and the end of life. Haneke starts his film this way.
     Throughout the next two hours we witness the end of a relationship, of a life. The end of physical love, pain and emotion of a marriage and life that has come to an end. It is the hard truths of life. Haneke shows the love and despair of this relationship. Anne suffers a series of strokes and their bond and family is tested severely. Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) lives overseas and visits to see how her mother and father are doing. She is frustrated and worried, but not as tested as Georges who, once Anne is bed-ridden, chooses to keep her at home and take care of her himself, with the help of a nurse. The first time Anne had a spell and after a stay in the hospital, Georges promises Anne he will not take her back. Anne asks Georges to never take her to the hospital again and her husband obliges. You can tell these two are deeply in love and have seen the joys and downs of life together.
     This film contains two of the more brilliant, fine tuned performances of 2012. Trintignant is subdued and challenged throughout the entire film. He is forced with aiding his debilitating wife and experiences a wide array of emotions. He exemplifies heartache, love and fear with aged eyes and movements. He is excellent but the real joy, being a difficult, almost guilty pleasure, is watching Emmanuelle Riva going through the stages of decline. She is faced with many challenges and Riva is at the top of her craft. She confronts the stages of dealing with death from having the right side of her body paralyzed to learning how to drive a mobilized wheelchair. Her acting is riveting and truly heartbreaking. It is as gorgeous as her beauty in Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon Amour, but when you see her eyes, the strain in her voice and her portrayal of the encompassing death that is creeping through her body is beyond words. She is truly mesmerizing and exhibits strength and the uncontrollable weakness that happens to our bodies and mind when life is being extracted from us. So thrilled for her Best Actress nomination and well-deserved.
     Michael Haneke's writing and direction is so crisp and filled with unbearable, sophisticated emotion. Shot softly, but with deep clarity by Darius Khondji, the film is, as many Haneke films, lensed with a motionless, stationary camera. He allows the actors and script to convey the correct emotive position within the film. Movements, words and actions lead to the viewers thoughts and interpretations of what is happening and does not make the camera convey that. The actors move expertly in the frame, but he knows when to have the camera move as well. In one scene, as is, with the final actions of Georges and Anne, is purely, visionary Haneke. I won't give it away, but it involves a scare that is gorgeously shot and follows Georges walking through a hallway. The moving camera adds to the tension and leads to a suspenseful action.
     Haneke has crafted undoubtedly one of the most challenging viewing experiences of 2012 and being a fan of his work, one of his most perfect pieces of filmmaking. It is not as graphic or chilling as Cache or either of his Funny Games films, but shows how talented and visually enthralling he is. A love story focusing on death has never been more profound as Amour is. It is truly a fantastic film, if not a difficult one to sit through. I have been a fan of his work for a long time and feel he is a filmmaker that challenges his viewers with not just intense stories and scenes, but with the ability to interpret and think about his films without giving explicit answers. I love filmmakers that make you think and allow the viewer to come up with their own interpretations. He is a ridiculously great director.
     The feeling I felt while wathcing this beautiful and challenging film ranged from emotions of love, fear and a profound caring for my wife and the one's I love. It is unbearable to think of the range of emotions that any of us will go through when faced with the death of a loved one. Shit, it is even harder to witness a two hour film that deals with death and choices, but it makes you think and turns out to be wonderful piece of art. Think of the decisions you will make when faced with death. The decision and hardships of life are terrifying, but we will all have to deal with it no matter where our status or finances are in life. We will end up one day alone and that is a frightening thought when we invest so much time with our loved ones. Even I do not feel like I could make the final decision Georges makes, but I knew what he was going through, even if I do not agree with his choice. It is heartbreaking and devastating, but I believe he kept his promise to his wife. It is love. The film is difficult and Haneke leaves the viewer to interpret the decisions these characters make, but that is the brilliance of his writing and directing.
     Michael Haneke's Amour is a mesmerizing, slower paced piece of filmmaking and still, very much a dark, engaging Haneke film. This elegiac love story is about what we do when our loved ones, especially our spouses, are on their death bed and in what ways we caress and care for them. A boundless love that is full of emotions, memories and frustrations. The performances are profoundly exceptional and exemplify the unbelievable talent and careers that have spanned generations. The film is difficult to sit through and shows an unflinching portrait of death but it an elegantly told, simplistic crafted film that shows the brilliance of Haneke as a viewer on life and as one of the top filmmakers in the world. 

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