Director & Writer: Michael Haneke
Cast Members: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva
Runtime: 127 min
Some films focus on creating an emotional response in their viewers as opposed to crafting a narrative. Amour produces a vivid representation of aging that is so painful for its characters that the audience is forced to share their emotions and feel as they do as well.
Retired music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) face the devastating reality of old age after Anne suffers a sudden stroke. As her health continues to fail, Georges must learn to care for Anne, demonstrating the power of his unfailing love for her.
Amour presents its audience with an often-painful viewing experience that directly reflects the experiences of its characters. Viewers can empathize with these individuals because they are feeling the same emotions. We watch as Georges slowly attempts to carry Anne from one room to another in many drawn out sequences, and are able to feel the discomfort in his struggle ourselves. The noticeable lack of score or general background noise makes these moments all the more uncomfortable, since there is no music to detract from the actions on screen. While these techniques do not result in a pleasurable film, pleasure is not the objective here. Instead, as is the case with fellow Best Picture nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild, a visceral representation of a specific state of life is presented to be experienced and subsequently pondered, rather than enjoyed outright. The interaction between the two lead actors demonstrates great ability as a genuine emotional connection and bond of love can be sensed. It becomes difficult to decide what is more upsetting; Anne’s slow physical and mental deterioration, or Georges’ reactions as he attempts to cope with the loss of the women he deeply cares for.
Although no completely foreign language film has ever won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, three partly foreign language films have taken home the top prize, the last winner being Slumdog Millionaire (English/Hindi) in 2008. It is more likely that this film will take home the award for Foreign Language film, a great achievement in itself. This speculation is based on the nomination this film received for overall Best Picture and the failure of any other foreign language contenders to receive recognition in this category. Another strong possibility for an award will be Actress in a Leading Role nominee Emmanuelle Riva for her heartbreaking portrayal of Anne as an individual slowly descending from good health into paralysis and senility. The difficulty integral to a role such of this fully deserves the recognition that it has received thus far, as an actor must portray a considerable alteration of both their physical and mental state while maintaining a connection with fellow actors as well as with an empathetic audience.
Amour is a film to be appreciated rather than enjoyed. Director Michael Haneke masterfully manipulates the emotions of the audience, causing them to feel as if they are sharing in that which the characters on screen are experiencing. Saying that, this is not a movie I will be eager to watch again in the near future.