Amour is the 5 time Oscar nominated, masterpiece directed by Auteur Michael Haneke. The trailer to the film is embed above, and I will mostly try to refer to the trailer when discussing the film however I will refer non-trailer scenes at times. I recommend all of you to see the film which opens on 18 January at Fifth Avenue Cinemas.
Amour tells the story of an Octogenarian Parisian couple, Annes and Georges, and their daughter, Eva, who lives abroad. Anne’s bond of love with her husband and the unity of her family are tested as she suffers from multiple strokes which progressively paralyses one side of her body. All of this is told in true Haneke-ian style of minimalism, simplicity, and the cold barren truth. It leaves no time for frivolous scenes and gets straight to punching you in the gut.
The best stories are the ones that are built on some basis of truth, and this for me is why Amour is the best Haneke film ever. Haneke’s films, while often fictional, are presented so real that you couldn’t tell that they were just the figments of the director’s imagination delivering a message such as anti-violence or etc. Amour on the other hand is a film that was built on a similar series of events that had happened in Haneke’s life which to me explains why this film has an extra edge over the rest of Haneke’s filmography.
Film can be aesthetically pleasing in many different ways; some like The Social Network are made in a perfect normative form but may not be descriptively perfect to many viewers. Others like Mamma Mia! is perfect in a Descriptive and emotional connection aspect, but sorely lacking or non-existent in the normative department. Mamma Mia horribly shot, and sometimes not even framed in a coherent manner; but it’s funny, emotional, and connects well with the audience.
Amour is both; perfectly made and impossibly impactful. Let’s first focus on the technical aspects of movie. There are multiple things that Amour does so well in this department. The Screenplay is short and to the point, totalling at only 68 pages it is shorter than most screenplays but no less brilliant. The worst thing a movie could do is tell but not show, say too much when a simple shot or action sequence could suffice. In the trailer there is a scene where Anne is playing the piano, and it turns out that Georges is just reminiscing about a healthy Anne. Haneke could’ve easily gone and taken the easy route with some dialogue, making Georges talk about his memory of Anne to indicate that it was a memory. Instead he just shows Georges sitting in a chair pensive, as Anne plays the piano. Then, he turns off the stereo revealing that Anne isn’t really playing the piano but instead Georges is listening to a recording of Anne and remembering her. When we cut back to the piano, Anne isn’t there anymore. To help augment this point Haneke makes masterful use of cinematography, blocking, and production techniques. For example, the natural light streaming through the window hits Anne and gives her an ethereal quality helping make the memory of Anne seem more like a memory and less real. Secondly, the way the shot is framed there is a large grand piano separating us from Anne which acts as the physical manifestation of the barrier separating us from reality and fantasy. Haneke also uses blocking and cinematography in a very masterful way to keep the tone of the movie steady. The movie intended to tell this story of love and loss in its own sombre and steadfast way. Even in moments of anger, Haneke frames the shot so that the angry person is in the background while the calm person is in the foreground so that despite that moment of heated emotion the sombre and steady tone of the movie still permeates through. Another example is that since the entire movie is set in an apartment in Paris it could potentially feel extremely constricting and claustrophobic which destroy the sombre and steady mood intended. So what Haneke does is that he cleverly uses the hallways to shoot into rooms and natural lighting to elongate the rooms, making them seem brighter and ergo larger. This gives us a sense of calm and almost quiet grandeur despite taking place entirely in a small space.
Emotionally the film is no different. What Amour really gets right is that it connects with each and everyone one of you. It is difficult to imagine that a person has gone through his or her life without having known or cared for a terminally ill or since deceased friend or family member. Amour fails to idealise that experience and instead tells the story as it is which is why it evokes emotion among the viewers. It is a humbling experience and makes you appreciate the wonders and value of love and life more than ever. The beauty of this whole movie is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways whether it be the cynicism of life, the enduring bonds of love, the ostracisation of the elderly, or etc. but it doesn’t matter according to Haneke:
Everybody is right! It’s their own interpretation. I try to construct all my films in such a way that each viewer constructs his or her own film. There’s nothing more boring than a film that immediately answers every question that it raises. You forget it immediately after you leave the screening room.
The film connects because it tells a human story in a way that it is believable and relate-able and no matter how you look at this movie you can take a unique touching message away from it. This emotional message is the true and most important part of the movie that makes it so great and so valuable; the normative perfection is just the icing on top that helps us engage with the message and make the movie more visually pleasing.