47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
As others have said, this is a very moving film, and takes us into an area I haven't seen focused on like this in any other film. I had feared it would be too harrowing to watch, but the bond between the couple, which felt as though it had existed for many years as the director intended, and the devotion shown by the Trintignant character towards his wife, made me feel the value of life and love very strongly; and that it was a film that has to be seen, really. It is a noble example of the art of cinema, conveying a sense of dignity and the deepest caring. Michael Haneke's usually dispassionate style here has the unexpected effect of making it more affecting; by refusing all sentimentality he creates something that is very moving while never giving us more - or less - than the truth. It seems to go so much further than words can express, and much of the emotion of the film remains mute. Music is also present as a consolation, even if one that is rejected by the wife at a certain point, puzzlingly. Nevertheless the husband continues to take solace in it, imagining his wife's playing before she fell ill. The flat itself also has an amazing resonance, seeming to represent the years spent together, and being a refuge of sorts for Anne, even though, of course, this can only go so far. But her clear aversion to going back into hospital allows us to sense this, as well as her feeling the overriding desire to be near Georges in her hour of need. You can only hope that she feels less alone than her confinement in her body implies, but ultimately this is unknowable. The film points up a number of paradoxes and questions of this sort, but lightly - it is always concerned mainly with love and suffering. You also feel what a noble art acting is - the bravery of the two leads is quite extraordinary, using their amazing skill to show us this most important reality that some people of their age go through. Emmanuelle Riva is astonishing in this regard - as her character loses the power of speech, she still manages to convey so much through her expressions and her eyes in particular. To empathise to that degree with what the character is going through - with the loss of dignity she feels - is an extraordinary feat. I don't imagine anyone could see this film without being profoundly affected.
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2012
This film has to have five stars, for the quality of the acting, the film-making and the whole conception. It is not always easy to watch - it isn't meant to be. And the whole action, such as it is, unfolds gradually. The camera is mostly static, there is no background music, and scenes are quite long and their significance not always obvious.
The film is about an octogenarian French couple, wonderfully well acted (well, lived) by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. She suffers first one stroke, then another. He looks after her, because she has made him promise not to put her in a home. The task gets more and more difficult, and their life becomes turned in completely on itself. Almost all the film takes place in their apartment.
The faces of the two stars are unforgettable, and the way Riva deteriorates is shocking but very realistic. It is a very moving film, and highly recommended, but anyone who has experience of this kind of ordeal may find it difficult.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 8 December 2012
I am not often motivated to write a review. But this is the best film I have seen for a while. Not an easy film to watch by any means though.
Superb direction, cinematography and acting make this surely the best French film of the year.
Minimalist in presentation, the acting is captivating and the story compelling. No special effects or background music to wind up the emotion.... just stark and profound acting in what at times seems real time.
If you are to watch just one foreign language film this year, watch this one.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2013
A brave, and in these days when so many more of us are living to increasing age, very necessary film.
It is powerful, in the sense that it is very effective in taking one on quite an intense emotional journey. I write this having seen the film within the last hour, and so in some ways find myself still under its spell.
I found it took me into a sense of displacement, disturbance and a certain delirium even, as it carried me from the normal life portrayed at the debut of the film, and life gave way to the unravelling of old age infirmity.
There are issues of a poor carer being confronted by a still cogniscent and very brave husband, and of middle aged children themselves struggling to cope, both with their own reaction as well as how they might be able to support their ageing parents.
It is a quiet, contemplative film, perhaps best viewed with a partner or a friend of one's own generation.
Beautifully shot all within the home, wonderfully directed and with acting of such consummate ability that the message of the film is carried with great strength.
60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2012
Michael Haneke's `Amour' is the story of an elderly married couple, Georges (Jean Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), who have to come to terms with the last stages of their life together.
One morning over breakfast, Anne experiences a moment of open-eyed paralysis that changes her life entirely. Anne has an operation which fails, leading to a steady decline in mobility, wheelchair confinement, dementia and finally being bed-bound. Anne never liked hospitals and Georges had to promise Anne that he would never take her back, although Georges keeps his word this arrangement had its own problems as Georges has to cope with caring for Anne.
Haneke rejects the idea that death is a communal experience, Anne's journey towards death is an intensely solitary experience. Only Georges can understand her pain, their daughter (Isabelle Huppert) is marginalised through no fault of her own. Anne's degradation and embarrassment at not being able to look after herself is evidently real and hard to watch. Emmanuelle Riva is a revelation as Anne, revealing the physical indignity and vulnerability of Anne's unravelling state in such a frank and utterly brave performance.
Georges and Anne's relationship releases all sorts of emotions and questions, not least how we adapt and cope within a relationship which is constantly changing, regardless of age. You may not see them kiss, hug, hold hands or even say "I love you", theirs is a love borne of loyalty, kindness and devotion. Its heartbreaking to watch Georges who has spent so many wonderful years building a life together with his beloved Anne, facing up to the reality that she is slowly disappearing before him.
As harrowing as Anne's and Georges deterioration is, `Amour' is still fundamentally a touching story between two people who are utterly in love with each other till the very end.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 August 2013
CAUTION: THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW
Although I am only 65 years old, most of the people I was close to as a child have died in the past four years, including my closest first cousin (only a month older than me), both of my parents, and my mother's two sisters, who were like auxiliary mothers. We were a very close extended family, all living within two miles of each other until I left home at 18. With the exception of my father, all of those people died in much the same way as Anne did in this movie, but in a much more nightmarish setting, in hospitals and hospices rather than at home, and with an extra kick of morphine at the end instead of a pillow.
But dying for all of them was ugly, protracted and humiliating, no less awful than it was for Anne... and FAR more expensive. The worst was my mother, who had Alzheimer's for 21 years before she died and went through for all those years what Anne went through in the few weeks or months this movie covers (note that the season doesn't change). If my father and others had not spoon-fed her (exactly as Georges did with Anne) every meal every day for the last fifteen years of her life, she would have died much sooner and much more humanely.
The effect of all that horror on me was to make me determined that I was NOT going to end my life that way. I'll spare you some of the tiresome details and just say that I did everything I could to prevent it, including a health care proxy, a living will, a very restrictive MOLST form (a wonderful, sort of expanded "Do Not Resuscitate" form available to New York State residents - a legal document which specifies what kinds of treatment medical professionals are legally allowed to give me) and making clear to my remaining relatives and friends that I did not want to be resuscitated or ever receive any kind of life-extending treatment, but be allowed to die as quickly and as naturally as possible.
I got DNR bracelets, lanyard things so I can wear my MOLST around my neck 24 hours, in case I collapse in a supermarket or somewhere, and a bunch of other crap. I got pretty paranoid about being kept alive after my body wears out, which is the norm in today's world. I've had a wonderful life, but I have no desire at all to extend it. Sixty-five years is plenty.
Despite all my efforts to ward off the kind of death I saw around me and later in this movie, I never could relax and quit fretting about it. I was just sure something would get screwed up and I'd end up just like all the rest, lying mindless and helpless in diapers in some motorized bed with tubes stuck in me everywhere and people all around trying to keep me alive until they got tired of it and upped the morphine. What this marvelous movie did is take away that anxiety. I don't know how, exactly, but it did it.
After seeing what happened to Anne in this movie, and through that remembering in a different way what it was like for my relatives, I realized that I'm okay with it now. It's okay now if I DO end up like that - because, even if it lasts for decades as it did with Mama, eventually it'll be over, and that's all that really matters.
If it takes me ten seconds to die or twenty years to die, I'll still die, and nothing can prevent it. That is profoundly comforting to me, and it allows me to scrap the MOLST and all the other voodoo fetishes I had gathered around me and relax. I have no idea how watching this movie gave me this totally unexpected freedom, but I have no doubt that it did.
This review originated as a post on the IMDb message board for this movie, in a thread titled "Do elderly people like this movie?" Since it expresses very well how I responded to the movie, I have decided to reproduce it here practically verbatim as a review.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One of the most heartbreaking films you will ever see, Amour is a beautiful work of art about a retired elderly couple of music professors and one of them has a stroke and the other goes slowly mad trying to look after her. On paper i admit it doesn't sound great and it is a very slow film set mostly in the couple's apartment but stick with it and you will be rewarded with some of the finest acting you will ever see. Emmanuele Riva is terrific as the stroke victim and if you aren't moved by her performance then i am sorry but there is something very seriously wrong with you. An absolutely fautless very sad masterpiece excellently directed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2014
Amour (2012) is Austrian director Michael Haneke's 11th feature film and one would be hard-pressed to think of another filmmaker whose output has been so consistently accomplished, so sharply challenging, so intellectually rigorous and so profound over such a long period of time. The man has not made a bad film! The consistency has been so staggeringly high that it's impossible to pick out one above the other. Even his remakes (2007's Funny Games US) are on the same extraordinary high level. With each film Haneke explores a different social area with breathtaking incision. At the risk of being simplistic, whether the subject be bourgeois inertia (The Seventh Continent), the media (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance), family (Benny's Video), violence (Funny Games), racial/social integration (Code Unknown), pornography/sexual repression (The Piano Teacher), the Apocalypse (Time of the Wolf), personal relationships (Hidden) or the origins of fascism (The White Ribbon), Haneke always applies the scalpel to revelatory effect. His approach is severe, cold, cerebral, anti-commercial, arrogant. Some people hate this man's films for being so damned uncomfortable to watch and it is fair comment that the almost complete lack of humor can sometimes be a problem. The only other director comparable to him would be that other master of humorlessness, Robert Bresson. But where the great French director had terrible trouble finding funds to make his masterpieces having to wait for the French New Wave to 'discover' him, Haneke has no trouble attaining funds and kudos in equal measure. Every film he makes invariably gets showered with awards, his last two features picking up the Cannes Palme d'Or. Amour even picked up an Oscar for best foreign film (and was nominated in the main category as well). Where Bresson had to struggle, Haneke has only to choose his subject, do his thing and the acclaim comes pouring in. For a director who is so uncompromisingly and aggressively anti-commercial this is surely unique in the world today.
I have waited a long time to see a film tackle the thorny subject of old age, illness and death with complete honesty. With Amour finally we have something which can be put alongside Tokyo Story (1953, Ozu Yasujiro), and not be found wanting. An extraordinary achievement, it tells a story sadly familiar to many of us. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are an octogenarian married couple. Retired music teachers, they share an apartment in Paris and enjoy a loving relationship. One morning Anne goes blank at the breakfast table. She has suffered a stroke. Medical tests confirm she needs an operation. The operation goes wrong and her right side is paralyzed. Anne makes Georges promise never to take her back to the hospital. It is clear that she will never recover and the film charts her painful decline (in unflinching detail) as Georges endeavors valiantly to care for her in the apartment until the very end.
Stated so baldly, one might ask, 'why on earth would anyone want to watch this?' and indeed Trintignant freely admits in an interview on this DVD that he for one would rather pass. For Haneke though, clearly death and the way humans react to it is just as much a part of life as any of the other social issues he has tackled before and is therefore more than worthy subject matter. An important difference with this film though, is that the material is unusually personal for the director. An artist of integrity, he clearly feels that he couldn't dare essay such a subject without having experienced the emotions he deals with himself at first hand. As Philippe Rouyer (author of the book Haneke by Haneke) explains in an introduction on this DVD, the film is partly based on Haneke's boyhood experience of being raised by his aunt. He had saved her from committing suicide once, but was unable to do so a second time. The apartment that we see in the film is a studio set (the glimpses of Paris we see through the windows are green-screened computer graphics) and the lay out is exactly the same as his parents' apartment. The script (which was carefully crafted by Haneke himself with absolutely no leeway for improvisation from the actors) features autobiography - the stories Georges relates to Anne to alleviate her suffering are stories from the director's own childhood. Also, the promise Georges makes to Anne to never let her die in a hospital or home is identical to the mutual promise Haneke and his wife have made in real life. In short, Michael Haneke has been there and seen it all. The emotions transmitted in the film are extraordinarily honest as a consequence.
For a film of such personal significance it was important for Haneke to deploy actors who were absolutely right for their roles. Trintignant's voice and his eyes were the attraction here and they are used astoundingly by both actor and director alike throughout. There is not a trace of artifice as we sense that Haneke absolutely wrote the film for him in much the same way as Hidden was written for Daniel Auteuil. Riva is also astonishing, cast partly because of the director's attachment to Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959, Alain Resnais), but also again because of those eyes and that screen presence. She also happened to live in Paris which helped. Casting is perfect down to the smallest roles. Isabelle Huppert does well with her few scenes as Eva, the daughter who tries to help, but is really powerless to intervene. In one sense the film is about music. Haneke did think about titling it The Music Stops. Huppert was of course the piano teacher in the 2001 film of the same name while other roles go to real life musicians - opera singer William Shimell as Eva's English husband Geoff and pianist Alexandre Tharaud playing himself.
So what does Haneke give us here apart from lingering death? Well, the answer lies in the title. It is incontrovertibly a love story, quite possibly the most moving ever put on film, and the question that keeps being asked throughout is how do you cope when the person you love (the person you can't possibly ever imagine being separated from) slowly dies in front of you? The answer for Georges (as for all lovers) is the exclusion of all others and a selfless dedication to his partner. Their daughter Eva is close. There is no doubting the mutual love between her and her parents, but when it comes down to dealing with mortality, the matter is entirely between her parents and ultimately nothing to do with her. This exclusion is something rarely if ever acknowledged on film and it's to Haneke's great credit that he features it so strongly.
The love story is subtly rendered from the start of the film onwards. The film opens with the door of the apartment being forced and the police entering to find Anne's dead body embroidered with flowers lying on the bed. The next scene takes us back a few months and out of the apartment for the first and only time in the film as we go the theater. The camera stares at the audience from the point of view of the stage and (as in the famous final shot of Hidden) it is only slowly, gradually that we can pick out Georges and Anne sitting in the middle of the audience. The piano recital begins and it is a Schubert impromptu, the opening notes of which announcing the profound desolation that is about to engulf the couple in the narrative. For the first and last time in the film the music continues across shots as we see the old couple greet the pianist (her old student) after the concert and then sit on a bus taking them home. The way they relate to each other, the way their bodies act and react we know this is a couple deeply in love. As the film develops, Anne's decline is mirrored by the increasing severity with which all intruders are excluded from their lives - the concerned neighbors, the nurses, Eva and her husband, the pianist Alexandre Tharaud. Georges' absolute devotion is shown when he ejects an insensitive care worker and then refuses to let Eva in to see her mother. Eva is upset at her exclusion, but when Anne comes to she makes it clear she doesn't want her daughter in the room. Aggressive guarding of privacy and an absolute bond with each other are what drives the couple. It is Georges' intention to provide for his wife exactly as she requests and he delivers on his promises in no uncertain terms. Everything he does, he does for love and the emotional wringer through which he is pulled works inexorably on his body and soul.
It is to Trintignant and Riva's enormous credit that all of this comes across so powerfully, but of course the extraordinary mise-en-scene that their director provides is truly out of this world. Haneke has stated that he loves working in studios because he has absolute control over the way everything looks and feels. With cameraman Darius Khondji he deploys extended shots with an extremely mobile camera which follows actors (especially Trintignant) around, drawing us closely into the narrative. Apparently, in the 127 minute film there are only 236 cuts with a shot length of the average of 32 seconds - long by normal standards. The framing is very exact and the dedication to capturing exactly the nuances of eye movement, of body contact, the tone of voice is obviously deeply exacting. One doesn't want to take one's eyes off the screen for fear of missing something during this quietly understated display of cinematic pyrotechnics.
The film's ending has raised a good deal of debate and here is perhaps not the place to deal with it. Regarding the pigeon I was reminded of the French avant garde composer Olivier Messiaen and why he used birdsong in so much of his music. His answer was that his music is deeply devotional and that birds are the closest thing he knew to angels and to God. Notice Georges' reaction to seeing the bird in the apartment. He closes (not opens) the window and once trapped beneath his jacket, he sinks to the floor fondling the creature. We can be reasonably sure here that we are dealing with his imagination and his cherishing of his wife's soul. That said, Haneke is a director who likes to pose questions more than answer them and (as in all his films) there is an element of open-endedness to proceedings. Perhaps the ending is what we choose it to be. Whatever we decide, the apartment is left bare and the daughter is left alone - excluded beyond the last.
I can't recommend this film highly enough. Artificial Eye's presentation is superb. The visuals (aspect ratio 16:9, 1.85:1) are top drawer and the sound (5.1/2.0 Dolby Digital) extremely clear. The extras are also generous - the Philippe Rouyer introduction, the Trintignant interview and a substantial 'making of' documentary. For once we don't get the usual Haneke interview that accompanies most of these AE releases. As said, this film is deeply personal for him and perhaps he prefers others to do the talking. I have no hesitation in pronouncing this as one of the 2 or 3 great films made so far this millennium. In decades to come this film will be talked about in terms of awe. Even if the subject doesn't grab you, you'd be a fool to miss such staggering film-making.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Love Can't Always Keep Us Together, as the old song goes. Troubles interfere, time passes and things change. Love can endure, and we see it up close and personal in this film.
This film has two main characters, Georges and Anne, retired music teachers in their 80s played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. They live in Paris in a beautiful apartment where the grand piano is Up front and center. They seem very happy and they are still in love. The opening scene is a concert given by a former pupil, that Georges and Anne attend. That is the last happy scene. Anne suffers a stroke after carotid surgery, the 5% side effect. She is still able to speak and think, and Anne makes Georges promise never to put her in a hospital again. and, so the slow dance of time begins.
This is at times a lovely film, full of love, but, then, it is sad and the angst George's and Anne feels, we feel. It is difficult to watch a loved one deteriorate and slowly die. Most of us go through it, with one or another of relatives. Even though it is difficult to watch this film, it brings us closer to our own thoughts. How we all think about our lives, ourselves. How will we die, how will our loved ones die? There is no answer.
Moving film of life and death and dying. Should be seen by all.
Recommended. prisrob 08-21-13
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2012
Michael Haneke's latest film, Amour, is something of a rarity, in that it provides a fictional cinematic account of the experiences of a stroke survivor and her carer.
The film focuses on a retired middle class couple, who are both former music teachers, and while it is set in Paris, apart from the early scenes the film takes place entirely in the couple's apartment, which gives the viewer a sense of confinement, something also experienced by the female protagonist when she suffers a stroke and is left partially paralysed.
The film is set in the context of a recession, as even though the couple are fairly well off there is a sense that in the world outside their borgouise sphere all is not well as at the start of the film the couple's flat is burgled, and they reflect on the fact that most of the people they know have also been burgled.
The film asks many questions but does not provide any answers. At one point a former student visits and asks her what happened to her. She replies that she does not want to talk about it. The question of what a stroke is therefore remains unanswered, but the question itself sticks in the mind of the viewer. In another scene the daughter, who is concerned about her mother's deteriorating condition, asks if there is nothing more that can be done. The father replies that she could go and find out. Again the question of what more could be done remains unanswered, leaving the viewer to ponder this for themselves. As well as this the lack of a clear narrative ending gives the viewer the uneasy sense that the problems raised in the film remain unresolved.
The film is somewhat unconventional in that it does not feature glamorous main characters that the audience might want to emphasise with. Likewise there is no background music that might create a mood which might make the audience emphasise with any character in particular.
The need for these distancing effects become clear as the film takes its final tragic twist. This lack of a happy ending means that the film has no narrative closure, leaving the audience with the sense that the problems the film highlights are yet to be solved while at the same time hinting that there may be a better, more humane alternative.
The performances given by the lead actors are superb, although Amour is a challenging film to watch, as it asks searching questions of it's audience and depicts highly emotive and distressing events, but it is precisely these qualities that make the film worthwhile and which will leave the audience with a greater awareness of the issues surrounding stroke as well as more compassion and concern for all those affected by it.