AMOUR — New York Film Festival 2012
Michael Haneke’s elegiac exploration of an elderly couple’s final days together transcends all definition of the romantic ideal. The film’s cumulative dramatic effect achieves a depth of emotional reward rarely attempted and far less frequently realized in cinema. The mercurial Austrian auteur has matured considerably as a filmmaker since the days of the confrontationally effective approach that informed such devastating films as “Benny’s Video” and “Funny Games.” His piercing commitment to dissecting social values is nonetheless as sharp as ever.
Gendarmes break down the doors of an apartment to discover a woman’s corpse resting in her bed. The conditions of her death provide the story with its plaintive narrative hook. Retired music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) rarely leave the comfort of their spacious Parisian apartment. An exception comes when they attend a performance of one of Anne’s successful students, Alexandre, a classical concert pianist. Shortly thereafter Anne suffers a stroke that leaves Georges as her primary caregiver. A second attack leaves Anne barely able to communicate with her long-adoring husband.
The story’s central heartbreak emanates from the exquisite performances of two of France’s best-loved actors. The tenderness and fire in Trintignant’s and Riva’s portrayals occurs with a quietly operatic significance. The brutality of nature is a mutual enemy that the characters struggle to command. A pigeon that flies into the apartment through a courtyard window is a tragic metaphor that informs Georges’s sense of personal justice. “Amour” is an incredibly intimate movie that provides a priceless definition of romantic commitment and loyalty. Counter-intuitively, it could well be the most appropriate date-movie young lovers could ever hope for to inaugurate a lasting relationship.
Rated PG-13. 127 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)