Amour (2012), by Michael Haneke
In my opinion, Michael Haneke is one of the very best contemporary filmmakers. He does not go for the lowest common dominator. Admittingly provocative, he explores countercurrent themes, not hesitating to expose an alienated society’s behaviour, in brutal fashion, without any sort of contemplation. The Austrian director portrays complex realities, perfectly deconstructing the inconsistencies of a civilizational state that is far from perfect.
We just cannot be indifferent to works like Funny Games (1997) The White Ribbon (2001) and La pianiste (2009).
Winner of the 2012 Cannes Palme d’Or, Amour is a thrilling movie, charged with endless sadness and anguish. But, also, the most beautiful love story I ever had the chance of watching in the “imaginary” realm of cinema. Imaginary with quotation marks, since fiction is mixed with reality. This is a recurring idea in my writings, because it reflects my view on the seventh art, and Haneke does it in an illustrious manner.
He says: “I try to get closer to reality, to get close to the contradictions. The cinema world can be a real world rather than a dream world.”
Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignante), confronted with his wife’s illness Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), closes himself in their own space, full of memories, interdicted to others. Anne’s image has faded away… the only thing he can do now is to revisit the past in a vain attempt to appease a suffering that breaks out, leaving no room for resignation… that past allows Georges to recall how Anne used to be, sitting in the living room, sitting at the piano, playing the beautiful piece Impromptu, Op. 90 D899 No. 3 by Franz Schubert.
Haneke only shows fragments of this old couple’s lives, but we just need some moments to perceive how deep their love is, undeniable even in the eyes of the most cynic. In one of the opening scenes, the lens captures the beginning of a concert, starring Anne, whose first notes lead to the guessing of Schubert’s play, under Georges’ contemplative gaze.
The narrative slowly unfolds itself. The silences are piercing. We are witnessing a path towards decline, where loneliness is the only “company”.
Haneke films every detail with frightening crudeness. The ageing that dictates the human being’s decay; the (imposed) return to childhood, when we all need to be taken care of. And, here, they do…
Haneke’s perspective on old age denounces the perverse effects of time. However, his approach goes even further. He confronts the viewer with limit situations. It reveals how ageing annihilates Man, showing that the natural cycle of life, romanticized by many, is anything but. He shatters all the clichés, repeated to exhaustion, about premises inherent to this stage, like the wisdom and experience that come from it. Is there any trace of dignity in old age?
The performances of Jean-Louis Trintignante and Emmanuelle Riva are terrific.
Amour is the depiction of life’s ephemerality in a confrontation with manifest suffering, in no way sublimated. The preservation of memory as a way of survival.
Amour and the threshold of despair …