Michael Haneke directed this film, which was critically-acclaimed and
won many awards, including the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film
Festival as well as the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
I'm happy for Haneke because he is one of my favorite filmmakers. I've
loved almost, every film he's done up until this one. I even wrote a
retrospective of Haneke's works.
What Haneke has done once or twice is take a real-life, domestic tragedy, one that has no explanation, and basically re-create it. Often, he does so in cold, distant and rather objective fashion. For example, in Haneke's debut film The Seventh Continent (1989), the story ends in a bloody massacre but the movie crafts itself around the mundane, day-to-day actions that lead up to the tragedy. The mundane can often provide a road map that explains the tragedy or else the tragedy just comes out of nowhere.
For Amour, the mundane, day-to-day actions do provide the road map. It stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as Georges and Anne respectively, an elderly couple living in a beautiful apartment in Paris, France. They're clearly retired. They also clearly have an interest in concert piano music. One day, Anne suffers a stroke that leaves her partially paralyzed. She loses mobility on her right side. She becomes confined to a wheelchair and eventually confined to the apartment and Georges becomes her primary caretaker. Her health steadily deteriorates and Georges' tolerance and patience steadily are tested to their limits.
This isn't really brought out through dialogue. It's brought out through Georges' expression day after day through seeing her get an adult diaper and his having to feed her or watch a nurse bathe her. The problem is he's continually asked why he won't put her in a nursing home where she can get round-the-clock, professional care and he won't be under so much pressure. He says no, but never why.
It's not like A Separation where a man has to care for his elderly father even to his inconvenience because it's a cultural sticking point. That sticking point doesn't appear to be the case here. Georges doesn't seem to be racked with any kind of guilt, or if he is, it's not due to anything made apparent. He could do what the husband did in Sarah Polley's Away From Her, but he doesn't.
Given the film's title, the obvious issue is whether or not Georges believes that caring for Anne himself is proof of his love for her. If that is the issue, again, it's not anything that's made apparent. The movie is just a series of long one-shots that successfully convey the tedium, the monotony and the crushing reality of old age. Sadly, this is my least favorite Haneke film.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 7 mins.