This is a tricky blog entry from me today because I want to write in as fluid a manner as possible but in doing so, I may inadvertently give away the plot of a film that I have the utmost respect for. So what to do?
Tough, here goes! Amour is the latest film from Michael Haneke, one of the few directors who I would argue can be properly coined an auteur. His output is unique, stimulating and at times, incredibly disturbing. Discarding his rather dubious decision to remake Funny Games and set it in the US with a much more American friendly cast i.e. Naomi Watts, his films are essential viewing.
Amour is a film about illness. Depending upon your level of cynicism, the title name is the illness but seriously, the film documents the decline of a woman named Anna as she endures two strokes and the impact her condition has upon her husband, Georges. There are other characters involved such as their daughter but the primary emphasis of the film is on the couple. The couple are seemingly quite wealthy, she was once a music tutor and it appears that Georges was too. From the start of the film, their love for one another is apparent. They seem to complete each other. In many respects, they mirror each other. They have the same interests and a comfortable life.
Stylistically, the film is composed of long drawn out sequences. The director is concerned with showing us other detail of the couple's relationship, so that the eventual denouement hits home even harder. It's a film that forces a serious analysis of a variety of issues including euthanasia, the care industry and indeed, whether love actually grows stronger at the point of imminent loss. Without giving too much a way, there are points in the film that resonate, not only because of the strength of the acting but in the details. For example, Georges wakes from a particularly vivid dream involving a mysterious unseen caller who presses the doorbell then disappears. Upon going to check who it is, he is grabbed by an arm and abruptly wakes up. This richly symbolic dream serves to reinforce how dependent Anna is upon her husband and how powerless and vulnerable she would be if he were not around. At another point in the film, he criticises and fires a nurse who comes in to help again illustrating her dependency upon him. Without him, her life would be so much worse.
The most tender moment in the film involves Anna screaming the word 'pain' over and over again. To calm her down, Georges relays a story from his childhood concerning an unhappy experience he had at summer camp. During this exchange, the two protagonists look at each other and she gradually quietens. The very thought of this scene inspired me to write this blog entry.
As a film, Amour is possibly one of the most intense and emotionally harrowing experiences I have had for some time. I saw it at the Curzon Soho with a friend and it was interesting to observe the audience as the film continued. Initially, certain members of the audience were engaged in brief conversations yet after Anna's second stroke, you couldn't hear a pin drop. I have never felt a sense of communal empathy as strong as I did last night. Once the film finished, we all look traumatised. This is a hard film to recommend because although it is brilliantly made, its sense of pace will not appeal to all viewers. But for those of us who still have a heart, this is essential viewing. Please see the link below if I haven't persuaded you to see the film yet.
Barry Watt - 28th December 2012