Sunday, 24 February 2013

Amour, dir/wr. Michael Haneke, st. Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

In Amour, Haneke shows us the tragedy of failing health and the tests of companionship with such numbing intensity, it's hard to tell whether he's dropping an icy veil in front of us for the sake of objectivity, or whether he's merely reflecting the reality of slow-burning personal cataclysm as it so unceremoniously plays out in real life. In either case, this is exactly what you might imagine a film about an octogenarian couple's managing of the effects of debilitating illness directed by Michael Haneke would look like; statically shot, unscored, and laden with ambiguous imagery and plot. Trintignant and Riva play Georges and Anne, their music-teacher backgrounds rich in feeling, tone and colour, and setting up a lifetime of sensation and wonder from which to descend. As Anne suffers a stroke, Georges is left to manage the practical aspects of her health whilst attempting to keep a promise he made to his wife to keep her out of the hospital, as well as trying to collate his own reflections on the vast span of their life together. The film's title neatly encapsulates the response to this terrible impasse. Haneke's lack of theatrics allows his cast to bear the weight of the film, not only the solemn performances of the central couple, but also Isabelle Huppert as their daughter Eva, highlighting how different the effect of this singular event can be between a daughter and a husband. Riva, at the age of 86 has become the oldest ever nominee in the Best Actress category, and not without merit. Her portrayal of an affliction so prevalent amongst her demographic must have been an extraordinary feat of triumph over personal fears. Amour remains in stark contrast to what else is on offer at this year's Oscars, but it's certainly one of the more ruminative pieces on subject matter that's at once painful to watch and crucial to observe.