French with subtitles
Director - Micheal Haneke
Pg-13; 127 Min
Jean-Louis Trintignant - Georges
Emmanuelle Riva - Anne
Michael Haneke's film Amour is two hours of octogenarians moving slowly within their apartment as they deal with the inevitable difficulties and sadness of death. And it's in French. If that opening doesn't make you want to run to your nearest independent theater and fork over $25 for a ticket, popcorn and diabetic-inducing sized soda, well, maybe I'm just not up to par with what gets the general movie going population into the seats.
You see, I simply want to weed out all the readers who will have dismissed any idea of viewing this film precisely because it is about old people getting sick and dying. In French. Warning ahead Will Robinson! An amateur film critic is about to praise a movie that has and will win awards and will generally be unseen or disliked by the weekend warrior crowds. No, we can't all just get along when it comes to movies, as many studies have shown there is a distinct Venn diagram that neatly intersects, in the tiniest of portions, a place where very few people can enjoy the Friday opening of yet another Tyler Perry travesty / Adam Sandler abomination whilst wolfing down buckets full of butter saturated popcorn and guffawing in sounds that make baby whales wish for death AND also enjoy the silence of the Artist, the character building of the wedding scene in the Godfather or the Deer Hunter, or the cut to black ending of an almost perfect No Country For Old Men.
What the hell am I getting at? I don't know. It's late and I want to write about a great film.
Director Michael Haneke has made some truly remarkable films in his career that test the audience, the actors, and the characters the actors are portraying. Check out his resume and do yourself a favor by watching a few such as Cache (2005) or The White Ribbon (2009). I personally need to delve deeper into his many works, since in my opinion he is 3 for 3 at least. With this film, Haneke gives a splice of life, very particular lives, and simply asks us to take a peek. From some opening shots where we are all but voyeurs to several later scenes with extended camera holds on somewhat excruciating details of everyday life, we are called upon to witness portions of life to which we may not be so eager to examine. People getting old and dying is not really subject matter to get you hyped up.
And yet this movie conveys something far beyond the superficial auto-responses of repulsion, pity or even self-examination. What it does so successfully is to take a complex issue which we all must deal with in one way or another and presents it to us in unflinching realism with no sugar coated easy outs coming our way every 15 minutes in the form of warm memory flashbacks or comedic relief. This is a long time married couple who woke up one day like usual and almost instantly find themselves forever changed and on a path they both know will lead not to fulfillment but ultimately to sorrow.
George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are expertly portrayed by master actors and there is no other way to praise them for what they each bring to this film. Riva has received a Best Actress Oscar nomination and there is no reason Trintignant could not have joined her, but putting aside awards and recognition from critics, these two draw us into a world we can all envision yet nobody wants to acknowledge and they present it in heartbreaking tones while using no gimmicks to tear at our emotions. We are watching a progression within each character and we are drawn to the way each comes to terms with the reality presented to them.
There is very little in the way of spoilers that could ruin the film for you, since most of what you see are these two elderly people in their apartment dealing with the stroke of one and the fortitude of the other to do what has to be done, but there are a few plot points which I will not divulge nor should you seek out beforehand, as each leaves a lasting, important impression on you as the credits role.
I am reminded of the feelings I had when I first saw The Secret In Their Eyes / El Secreto De Sus Ojos (2009), a beautiful film in the Spanish language that deals with adult themes, albeit in a non comparable way to this film, that overlaps in a sense the types of emotions I went through while viewing adults go through adult problems. In Amour, the statements being made by the end are ultimately up to you to internalize, but if you feel nothing, I can do nothing for you.