Amour (2012) (PG-13)

This review contains SPOILERS!
Some films have proven that they are hard to watch—movies like "Schindler's List" and "Hunger". Most of the time, you hear about them from someone you know: "Oh, that movie is so good. But it's hard to watch." They tack that last little disclaimer onto the end to tell you that the movie is a great, relentless drama; but (the crucial conjunction) you may want to avoid it.
Avoid it, why?
As one of my friends put it: "You may loose faith in humanity." I'm not sure that's being fair—movies that are hard to watch evoke the strongest emotions within us. They are usually the most realistic and bitter...yet, if anything, they prove to us that life moves on.
"Amour" is one such film that is hard to watch. It reaffirms the sometimes pointlessness of the rating system. Should the movie be rated PG-13?...not in my mind. You have to know what you're getting yourself into before you start "Amour".
Though this film is sometimes painful to see, it's one of the most intimate portraits of love (hence the title) brought to screen yet.
Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are two aging musicians. Concert pianists and teachers, music consumed their life for a long time.
Now in the eighties, things have started to slow down. The tours have ended, the lessons have halted, everyday life can begin again.
The couple will now sit and have lunch together, talk about books, go for walks, but always make time to go see concerts.
Aging has treated Georges well, he can still shuffle around at a decent speed; though he does have some expected trouble standing up and kneeling down. Anne, on the other hand, receives twice what she deserves.
A stroke or attack of some kind (the film isn't that specific, though I suspect a stroke) leaves Anne in the hospital with her right side paralyzed. Confined to a wheelchair, Anne is starting to really grasp her own mortality.
She forces Georges to swear to never bring her back to a hospital and he does. Hating the idea of being hooked up to a wall for the rest of her life, Anne is left out of the spotlight.
Of the couple, she was the one who craved more attention. She liked people's eyes on her; now in a chair, she gets more attention in a different way. The eyes of the people will drift to her limp right hand and the large wheels that carry her around: she hates it.
Georges, in an act of incredible selflessness, becomes her primary caregiver and learns to care for a woman who cannot care for herself. He cuts her steak when things are that bad; and when Anne's condition deteriorates, he spoon-feeds her.
The scene that sticks out in my mind the most simply for the stifling, factual way it was shot is a scene where a nurse shows Georges how to put a diaper on Anne. Her face is the only thing in the shot besides the back of the nurse. We see her blank eyes as she is rolled around on the bed...she's trying to be unemotional, yet it's impossible. She used to be able to do the simplest things by herself. Craving autonomy and forced into submission, Anne is in a living hell.
Georges is an a state that's not much better. He has to deal with Anne and himself; though he tells her that it's not an imposition to him.
How would you react if you had to see the person you spent your life with fading into someone else?
Another stroke later and Anne is left essentially mute. Her words are garbled and make no sense; but Georges stays by her side. He won't leave her, for better or or worse.
"Amour" is shot with the same bleakness that "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" was. Simple angles, long shots, no score, not a lot of dialogue—just actors and their craft.
It takes an enormous amount of trust to hand a movie over to two people; but this is what Michael Haneke (the writer and director) did. Likewise, you have to trust a director as an actor to let them do this to you.
However you view it, "Amour" is an film that is brought to bitter fruition by Trintignant, Riva, and Haneke.
This film won the Palme d'Or as well as the Oscar for foreign language film; but both those awards don't do it justice.
More than a lot of films, "Amour" makes you feel like you're in the room with Georges and Anne.
By all rights, the two leading characters should have some emotional breakdown. "Amour" has no shouting, throwing china, or crying done by the couple. They hold their breath and let the situation unfold, letting their emotions recede inside of them. Perhaps there is crying later, but we have no right to see that.
The viewer is the one who thinks how horrible the situation is; you never hear Georges complaining. It's the audience that brings emotion into the film.
This is what makes the film so hard to watch: the naked, brutal side of love that we would rather forget about it.
Haneke and his courageous two leading stars have proven that love is a many-layered emotion—it can be excruciatingly painful.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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