Published Thursday, 29 November 2012
Amour is a beautifully crafted drama exploring the difficult questions we all face later in life. With an ageing population, this is brave and bold movie making at its very best, taking an intelligent look at the toughest of contemporary subjects.
Does it really matter that this film is made in another language when it's powerful emotional truth affects us all?
I don't think so.
Amour broke my heart and lifted my soul. This is a unique film about the death of love, not a doomed romance but the inevitable end to a lifelong passionate relationship. Sweet loving couple Georges and Anne are in their eighties, brilliantly played with dignity and warmth by acting legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.
They are cultivated, retired Parisian music teachers. Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Hubbert) who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an devastating stroke, and from then on, their unwavering bond of love is severely tested.
As are we the audience. Here are the small poignant moments at the end of a person's life, intimately portrayed. Real scenes of deep affection which are rarely seen in the over dramatic movies of mainstream. At the dinner table, Anne gently flicks through a photo album of her life, snapshots of times past, "Life is beautiful" she says.
This is a moving portrait of loving relationship which tugs at the heart strings without Hollywood sentimentality. "Promise me, never take me back to hospital" Anne begs Georges. Of course he agrees, even though he knows his great love will die and the grief will kill him too.
If you have been lucky enough to see director Michael Haneke's previous work, especially the award winning Hidden, and White Ribbon, then you will be aware that he is a supreme film talent. If fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger has the movie brawn, then Haneke has the bulging cinema brain.
In a wonderfully simple and inventive scene at the beginning of the film, we see the couple at a concert. The shot is framed from the stage of the entire auditorium waiting for the performance to begin. Strangely distant, yet somehow within this sea of faces, our eyes are drawn to Georges and Anne. Only a great director like Haneke would use a wide shot to bring us closer to the characters.
In a later sequence, a pigeon flies into the apartment and flutters life into their dying world. Georges tries to capture it by throwing a towel over the wandering bird. This strange game of 'catch the pigeon' is one of the most oddly captivating scenes I have ever seen. Again, only Haneke can bring mystery to the mundane.
Not to watch a film like Amour because of the subtitles is as preposterous as refusing to taste champagne because you can't read the label. Let's not forget, the French invented cinema and the first films screened to one and all in Ireland were French. Let's not make them the last.
Amour (Cert 12a) is showing at The Queen's Film Theatre in Belfast from Friday 30th November.