Michael Haneke, the director of Amour, thoroughly confuses me. I saw a bit of Béla Tarr in him, due to similarities in long shots, black and white (shallow, I know) and realism between Sátántangó and Haneke’s 2009 film The White Ribbon (loved the former, hated the latter). I’ve heard comparisons to Lars von Trier, as both are painted as misanthropes (von Trier? Certainly. Haneke? Probably). But I was a big fan of Melancholia and Antichrist.
I preferred Amour , the Palme d’or winner, to The White Ribbon, but I still cannot call myself a fan.
The film opens with firefighters breaking into a home. One holds his nose as he finds the body of Emmanuel Riva’s Anne. From there, there is a long, bland still of an audience attending a music performance. The audience contains Anne and her husband Georges, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. Both actors are well-known and respected in their native France. Riva is fantastic in the film, and has been recognized with an Oscar nod for Best Actress. Trintignant is at least on the same level throughout the film, and I feel has been overshadowed by Riva’s Academy Award attention. He’s great, be sure to keep an eye on him when you watch the film.
From there, Riva has a stroke. The rest of the film focuses on life from there, and on Georges’s attempts to care for Anne. The story isn’t he most original, in all honesty. Haneke uses his trademark detachment from the scene, but Riva and Trintignant do their best to fight against this. Haneke does an admirable job of allowing the actors to take over their characters, but he doesn’t spoonfeed you their personalities as so many directors do. Haneke has been criticized for this detachment in the past; I don’t see it as an issue here.
I do find a lot of the scenes to be worthy of criticism however. Haneke shoots everything well and they have a purpose, but there’s just too many of them. I understand that Anne can’t bathe herself, but I don’t understand why you have to take a nude shot of her being bathed. We already know she can’t care for herself, it merely shows that Haneke can get an 85-year-old, well-respected actress to do a nude scene for him. I understand that it would be atypical of the genre, but this story could’ve been told in 90-minutes. The audience doesn’t need to be beaten over the head and told to feel bad for the main characters, to think of how we’d feel if this were our mother or our grandmother. It’s hackneyed.
The acting in this film is fantastic, and there are a lot of beautiful shots. However, instead of crying at a sad story, my eyes drifted because Michael Haneke demanded that I feel sad.