MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Sony Pictures Classics
On DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video and iTunes
Directed by Michael Haneke. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva
“Grow old with me/the best is yet to be,” wrote Robert Browning, who died at the age of 77. As romantic and hopeful as these words are (written when Browning was 52), most couples who live into their 80s and beyond will find themselves dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, or immobility. And any child who loves their parents will eventually need to care for them in their advanced age. We can replace knees and hips and we have cured enough disease to keep our bodies alive decades past their years of vitality.
Amour, by noted Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke (in French, with English subtitles), tells the final chapter in the story of Georges and Anne, both music teachers, both in their late 80s, who live a quiet and rewarding life of classical music and culture.
After a shocking initial scene (which reveals the end of the story), the film travels back in time to the last days of normality. Georges and Anne enjoy a concert performed by one of her protégés and they return home to the simple pleasures of daily life. Suddenly, Anne begins to have episodes in which she shuts down for just a moment before coming back into focus again. She then begins to have a series of strokes which force Georges to deal with their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) as well as the caregivers hired to help Georges keep Anne at home.
Amour is a tough film to watch, in part because of its theme, but also because of its intentional slow pace. In its refusal to rush things along, we have the opportunity to watch two of France’s greatest actors at the height of their craft. It’s rare to watch an actor’s eyes and feel as if they are letting you into their souls. Because the film isn’t trying to be sentimental or give you easy answers (there’s an incredible amount of mystery in this film which only becomes apparent after you’ve had time to think about it), there is much time to observe what’s on the screen: the paintings on the walls of their flat, the music on the soundtrack, and a pigeon who makes a couple of entrances along the way.
Amour ends up being a meditation of sorts on mortality and love and I found myself haunted by this movie days after I first viewed it. It must be said, however, that the film is brutally honest and unflinching in showing us that not all decisions made in the name of love are beyond reproach. Christ is absent from this film, as well as intimations of immortality, so death seems a bit scarier in the bargain. It’s not often that a film can be considered a love story, a character study, and a horror film, but it can be argued that Amour is all of that and more. I might warn you from seeing Amour if I didn’t want to talk with you about the film so much.
Four halos: A heartbreaking film about love, mortality, and the slow decline that takes place between this life and the next.
Two pitchforks: Scenes of suffering and death, with a couple of shocking incidents.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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