Amour

Let me just say up front that Amour is not the type of movie I generally see.  Foreign films usually don’t appeal to me.  This one also deals with dementia in old people, and well, I went through that in real life with my mother and I have no desire to see it in the movies.  If Amour were not up for so many important awards, I’d give it a pass.

Georges, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Anne, played by Emmanuelle Riva, are retired music teachers.  They lead a comfortable life well sequestered in the artistic class.  One day Anne has a stroke and is left severely debilitated.  Over an unbearable period of time she declines and lingers.  Unable to bear watching her suffer, Georges must make a decision.

That’s really all I can tell you without spoiling it, even though you can probably figure out what happens from just what I’ve told you and from other descriptions.  The plot really isn’t the point here.  Michael Haenke, the director and screenwriter is trying to convey the complex web of emotions that accompany watching a loved one decline.

And he succeeds, damn him!

Emmanuelle Riva has the acclaim and nominations for her performance as Anne, and she deserves all of it.  Her portrait of a smart proud independent woman falling into dementia is devastating.  But this is really Georges’ story and Trintignant gives the best performance in the film.  He plays a man who keeps his emotions hidden but the actor communicates that this man has very strong emotions, indeed.  He doesn’t get visibly scared when he realizes that something is wrong and he doesn’t have a scene where he boils over in anger and resentment.  But all that stuff is there.

Haenke’s direction emphasizes these things.  There are long static shots with dialog off screen.  Conversations are deliberate and slow, creating a great deal of frustration in the viewer which was very familiar to me.  In these situations, there is nothing you want so much as change.  At first there’s hope; you want her to get better.  And then when it becomes apparent that there is no hope, you just want the end to hurry up and get here.  Except you’re afraid to tell people that or maybe even admit it to yourself.  You tell yourself that she wouldn’t want to live this way, but deep down you wonder if you’re being selfish to want to be rid of these responsibilities.  And that nagging guilt doesn’t end when the loved one dies.  It takes…well, I’ll have to let you know.  It’s been twenty years and I haven’t gotten over it yet.  I doubt that I ever will.

I can’t say I loved Amour, or even liked it much.  It is an intense experience.  I do, however, recognize that it is well made and perhaps even brilliant.

 

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