out of Five
Running time: 127
Michael Haneke's stunningly directed Palme D'Or winner is a haunting and emotionally devastating drama with a strong script and a pair of powerhouse performances from veteran actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Michael Haneke, Amour is set in present-day Paris and stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as married couple Georges and Anne, a pair of retired music teachers in their 80s. After attending a concert given by a former student of Anne's, Georges is horrified when Anne suffers a mild stroke that signals the onset of dementia and partial paralysis.
As Anne's condition deteriorates, she makes Georges promise that he won't put her into the hospital, so he attempts to cope with the ever-increasing demands of her daily care. To this end, he receives various degrees of help from their daughter Eva (Huppert), a kind-hearted nurse (Carole Franck) and their apartment building's concierge and her husband (Rita Blanco and Ramon Agirre).
Trintignant and Riva (both veteran French film stars, as if to give extra added poignancy for cinephiles) deliver terrific performances that are heartbreaking to watch (needless to say, this is not a film to take your grandparents to). Their overwhelming love for one another is palpable throughout and the intensity of it is further heightened by Haneke's decision to confine the action to the four walls of their Parisian apartment (with the single exception of the early scene at the concert).
Haneke shoots the action in his usual style, using long takes and dispensing with a musical score. The effect of this is to create an intensely intimate atmosphere, although the use of long takes also allows for a rather brilliant extended sequence involving a pigeon that's simultaneously saddening and laugh-out-loud funny.
The script explores some powerful ideas surrounding both love and death and Haneke orchestrates a number of sequences that are by turns shocking (a terrifying nightmare scene), emotionally devastating and genuinely haunting; the sequence where Anne goes completely blank at the breakfast table is more horrifying than any horror film moment you'll see this year and will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.
Impressively directed and superbly written, Amour is a powerfully emotional drama with a pair of sublime performances from Trintignant and Riva. Highly recommended.
Amour (Love) (12A)