By Will Ashton | email@example.com
Amour | Directed by Michael Haneke | Rated PG-13
When the nominations for this year’s Oscars were released, it’s safe to say that very few people were expecting to find Amour among the Best Picture nominees.
Despite winning the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – and pretty much picking up awards left and right at various awards ceremonies- the idea that this film would gather enough cloud to not only pick up a nomination in the highest category, but also in the Best Director category, just seemed very unlikely.
But, alas, Amour became the first non-British foreign film to be nominated in both the Best Picture and Best Director categories, in addition to the Best Foreign Picture section, since Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon back in 2000 (who is, coincidentally, also up for Best Picture and Director for Life of Pi this year).
The film only a couple people even heard about has now become one of the most recognized films of this year’s ceremony, scoring five nominations, including Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay. So is the movie worth all the hype? Short and simple: yes. Yes it is.
The plot for Amour is rather simple. Anne and Georges, a couple of 80-something-year-old retired music teachers, are tested in their commitment to one another when Anne receives a terminal stroke. Afraid of doctors and hospitals, Anne has Georges promise her that he’ll take care of her during these troublesome times. Georges continues to care and provide for Anne, but as her health continually relicenses, he begins to wonder how much he is possible able to do.
Amour focuses entirely on the small details. The plot centers, mainly, on its two central characters, and the majority of the film takes place inside their apartment. It is a cinematic play. Writer/director Michael Haneke reserved, yet intimate, style lets the characters breathe naturally, while also letting the audience know and care about this people. He always allows the camera to see these characters from a distance. He replicates the sensation of watching this show from a stage, yet gives every detail and frame so much care and focus that we never miss a thing, even when you are only told quite little about these characters.
As Georges and Anne, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Academy-Award nominated Emmanuelle Riva pack in powerhouse performances. Their performances are very subtle, yet they throw themselves fully and completely in their roles. In particular, Riva’s character transformation throughout is haunting but captivating, as we slowly and painfully watch Anne lose herself to her condition. But as the heart of the film, Trintignant gives so much humanity and heartbreak in his performance that it’s almost as hard to watch Georges as it is to watch Anne.
Despite making the remake of Funny Games (he also directed the original)- the most pointless remake since Gus Van Sant’s “reinterpretation” of Psycho- Haneke has always remained a captivating filmmaker. Once again, he has made another powerful yet heartbreaking look at humanity. In fact, this is likely one of his best films of the past decade. His writing is so realistically honest and his direction is masterfully sure-handed.
There is one factor that holds this film back from being a truly great film: it’s ending. As much as I love subtle endings, the finale of this film feels as though Haneke did not know how to end his picture. As an audience member, it leaves you confused and slightly underwhelmed that the movie didn’t end on as high of a note as it should. Not that it is ever bad per se, but its lackluster finale leaves you believing that there was a better way to end this story.
Amour is not a fun film to watch. There will be people who will simply not like this film for being what it is. It’s a film that you feel every minute going by, one by one. Throughout the film part, part of you wants to leave to stop watching these characters’ pain, part of you just wants to cry, another part of you wants to keep watching to find out what’s going to happen next, and then another part of you is just so captivated by the film’s bittersweet beauty, filmed wonderfully by cinematographer Darius Khondji.
But for those patient and willing to take in this film’s power will be completely blown away by the film’s haunting captivity. It’s not a pleasant film, but it’s a fantastically well-made film that deserves to be seen.