Amour hasn’t seen wide release in North America, but this French film swept through Cannes and is now nominated for Best Picture. I caught it at a TIFF screening and can safely report that it deserves all of its nominations. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, the film follows an elderly couple as they cope with life just before death. Watch the trailer after the jump then read my review.
This is an amazingly depressing film. The setting, the writing and the emotion brought to this movie are all very powerful. When it ended, everyone in the theater sat frozen, unsure how to react. Director Michael Haneke captures the raw emotion of a couple in their last months together and portrays the subject matter clearly, without hiding anything from view.
The film opens with paramedics and firefighters breaking into an apartment. After a quick search, they find an old woman dead in the master bedroom. And then the credits role. This amazing scene sets the tone of the film perfectly, and you know right away that this is not going to be a happy film.
Trintignant and Riva play Georges and Anne, an elderly couple who love classical music and going to see their piano students perform. But very early on, Anne suffers a stroke and their world turns upside down. Georges, forever by his wife’s side, becomes her caretaker as her life slowly disintegrates and the majority of the film shows their interactions, ending with a powerful bang.
Almost every scene is set in the couple’s apartment in Paris. It isn’t well-lit and has cramped rooms, but falls into the background the more sick Anne gets. The performances here are so engrossing that nothing else matters to the audience. From the opening scene, we know Anne is going to die, but the slow death she suffers is very uncomfortable for the audience that really pulls on the heart-strings.
The acting in this movie is superb on so many levels. Riva was the only one to secure an Oscar nomination (the oldest woman ever nominated at 85), but Trintignant’s performance is just as well done. Riva’s Anne is a strong and determined woman who has trouble adjusting to her new, less independent life. On the other hand, Trintignant’s George has to watch his wife suffer and has to learn to care for both her and himself. These conflicts tear the characters apart as much as the illness. And the actors sell it perfectly.
In french, Amour means love, and this story explores that theme in ways I’ve never seen on-screen before. George and Anne clearly love each other and have more many years, but that is shown in ways that are less conventional for film. For example, they never kiss each other. They don’t have too. Instead, they find peace in each others company. George continues to care for his wife for months no matter how tough it is on him. Even their daughter is disconnected, and their interactions with her don’t have the same spark as between George and Anne.
That creative choice is very interesting and more telling than any long monologues ever could be. And that is why Amour is such a good movie. The acting is incredible, the style choices are perfect and the script is flawless. This is a well made, but depressing movie, that everyone should experience at least once.