Amour (5 out of 5 Stars)
Directed and Written by Michael Haneke (Cache, The White Ribbon)
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Hupert
Amour is a gripping journey on the depths of love, as an older couple is faced with challenging decisions through illness. From the moment the film opens you know the end, but even through this knowledge understanding this couples story is still important. Georges (Trintignant) and Ann (Riva) take in a piano concert. The next day there is a moment during breakfast where Georges is speaking to Ann, and then silence. Georges walks away leaving the fountain on and after three minutes, and Ann responds scolding him.
Georges takes to Annto the doctor, against her wishes, and they find out that Ann has had a stroke. The doctor recommends a surgery, but the surgery fails, and in this instance Ann's motor functions on the right side of her body are left useless. Through this Georges feels guilt, and decides to take care of her as her quality of life decreases.
Without giving too much of Haneke's genius away the film leaves you emotionally raw for days pondering the depth of this couples love. Haneke uses his traditional style from both Cache and The White Ribbon in which there are moments of long silence where the actions of the actors help flesh out the script. There are times when the long action moments mean more than realized. One of the most meaningful moments for Georges is the pigeon landing in the apartment. While leaving the window open a pigeon enters the apartment. During the first instance the pigeon leaves easily. When the pigeon enters the second time there is a deeper meaning and the quiet dance Georges does with the pigeon while letting the pigeon go means more to him than he realizes.
Haneke's direction and script brilliantly unfold a tale filled with moments of agony, grief, but ultimately filled with love. As you watch Georges struggle, or Ann slip further into illness their connection may hit rough patches. As Ann slips further away Georges loses his temper, hits her, has nightmares, and these moments all come as their love start to slip from his reach. Yet even as they lose their true connection, their love remains true.
Haneke does not spell out his direction with 100 percent certainty; he often works in the grey leaving ambiguity for the viewer to decide the meaning of a touch, a look, or silent moment. This helps further strengthen the depth of the story, and makes the performances in his film even stronger.
Emanuelle Riva is incredible this year, and gives one of the best performances of the year, her slow downturn into being a fully capable woman into someone who can barely drink water is heart wrenching. Later in the film you realize that Ann was a piano player, and trained one of the rising stars in the world of concert piano. When he comes to visit her after her attack, you can see his anguish when he realizes his mentor is on the path to death. The real pain arrives when he sends them a CD describing how sad the experience made him, and Ann's heart breaks, her face says it all.
While Riva has received most of the awards attention Trintignant who plays Georges is also impeccable; he provides one of the most honest performances of the year. You can see the life drain from him in a different way. As you watch Georges care for Ann, and watch her slowly move towards death you see life slip from his eyes. Trintignant has turned in one of the most under rated performances of the year.
Haneke's film is one of the most poetic films of the year, leaving you walk away with one of the beautifully sad moments. As you watch Ann pass away, you realize the actual importance and impact love has on people, and can't help but contemplate the struggles it provides to everyone daily.