I just returned from seeing Michael Haneke’s AMORE, which earlier last year won the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival. This was not the reason I went to see it.
I have seen three of his earlier films: THE PIANO TEACHER, which I detested; TIME OF THE WOLF, a post-apocalyptic film stripped of artifice that I admired; and THE WHITE RIBBON, which was an excellent study of dark German history. My summaries are terribly vague, though I’d invite you to see them. I will warn that his approach to storytelling is rigorous, hard and quite clinical at times, though this is not a fully accurate depiction of his work. It is better to say that he does not allow sentiment to cloud his presentation, and this is why I was very keen to see how he portrayed his latest film which deals with old age, dementia and death.
Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Georges, who is married to Anne, played by Emmanuelle Riva. They are an elderly French couple, avid music lovers enjoying their retirement. Early on in the film she suffers a stroke, and he promises to care for her and not bring her into a hospital or nursing home, which she is dearly afraid of. Over the course of the film, she deteriorates and grows less verbal and less aware, and he isolates them both from the rest of the world, even trying to prevent their daughter (Isabelle Huppert) from seeing her mother. His love for her becomes a shield, perhaps a rebuke to reality, and eventually the stress grows too great for him to handle.
If I haven’t lost you completely by this point with this grim summary, I would recommend this film for its even handed depiction of homecare, with many long running tableux shots that calmly and nonjudgmentally witness the minute and intimate details of cleaning, feeding, and emotional distress that he endures. Both actors bring complete sincerity to their roles, with Ms. Riva’s transformation from a whole person to a human husk being very deep and especially painful to watch. Not a whiff of soap opera, treacle or maudlin tearjerking is present, and this makes for a tough and revealing film. I will be processing it for some time, there are a lot of things to mull over.