"“A masterpiece – but not one I ever need to sit through again...”"
Having won the much coveted Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival this year, you expect Michael Haneke's latest feature Amour to be of a rather high standard, as one can't help but feel that the judges would have awarded the German filmmaker the honour somewhat reluctantly following his identical triumph with White Ribbon just three years ago. So it no doubt takes something rather special to convince the panel to reward Haneke again so soon – but they were left with little choice, as this is a simply a spectacular – and unforgettable - piece of cinema.
We delve into the lives of retired teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), a married couple in their eighties, living comfortably in their humble apartment. That is, however, until Anne suffers from a stroke, gravely putting their relationship and bond of love to the ultimate test, as we enter the tragic final months of Anne's life.
As you can no doubt gather, Amour is not an enjoyable trip to the cinema, right from the deafening silence of the opening titles, to the very same effect of the ending credits – this is one long, arduous journey - otherwise known as the 'Haneke experience'. The feature is torturous, as you go through the motions of Anne's slow-burning deterioration with Georges, making for tedious and uncomfortable viewing. The film is set mostly in their apartment also, as the claustrophobia adds to the overall discomfort of the picture. Anyone who has had to go through such a withering process will resonate with this picture greatly.
Such devastation is enhanced by the incredible chemistry between Trintignant and Riva, as I had fully expected to discover they are married in real life, as their performances are that sincere and naturalistic. It's not just Anne who we see dilapidate in front of our eyes, as Georges is breaking mentally, yet also suffering in a physical sense as such an ordeal takes over an already fragile man. You forget that while caring for Anne, he also needs to care for himself. Meanwhile Riva portrays the role of a dying woman with an incredible and brave display of conviction.
You won't enjoy Amour, it's difficult to watch and hugely emotional too. However, it remains an important piece of cinema and any fan of film should really go and see this, as it's yet another flawless production to come from the great Haneke. However, having now seen Amour, I think I'll pass on a second viewing. Yes, it's a masterpiece – but not one I ever need to sit through again.