Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, often criticized for his darkness, contradictions, and deviousness, is known for depicting the tragic nature of life with honesty, love, and hard work, and Amour is a marked departure from his usual style.
In this emotional film, he explores the profound impact of a woman’s debilitating beatings on a long-term marriage, delving into the constant balance between restraint and passion, while bravely portraying the horrors of physical decline.
Haneke trades his typical playfulness for a touching story in this warm but tightly made film. By focusing on an elderly couple, Georges and Anne Laurent, the film examines how love becomes a formidable force in the face of death, turning the audience into observers of intimate moments and pain.
Love’s Ethical Labyrinth
It appears that Georges was a musicologist and Anne was a piano teacher. They are a long-married couple and they are retired. They listen to music, read books, attend concerts, and have little contact with their adult daughter, also a classical musician. There’s not a hair or a point of view out of place – the characters are just ruffled and intimate enough that it doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
Through all the difficult scenes of Anne’s decline and Georges’ disappointment, kindness still prevails. Even Haneke is kind to the various supporting characters, who exhibit varying degrees of insensitive behavior; this shows they have good intentions without fully understanding the outcome.
The kindness and affection between Anne and Georges are first shown through their daily family interactions and later in scenes of Georges taking care of Anne. They both struggle with the fact that what is happening to Anne has stripped her of her dignity. The way both partners try to make the situation more bearable for the other, often against the other’s wishes, is a big part of what makes Amour such a film of integrity.
Navigating the Maze of Morality
Michael Haneke’s Amour is a brutally honest portrait of aging, illness, and death, offering no complicated narrative but executed with perfect clarity. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva give the best performances of their careers as an elderly couple, shedding light on a difficult subject. Despite its complexity, the film may not resonate with Haneke’s typical audience.
The couple’s quiet life was interrupted by Anne’s illness, diagnosed as carotid artery blockage. After a failed surgery left her paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, Georges became her devoted caregiver. As Anne’s condition worsened, she suggested that she was ready to die, hoping that George would grant her release.
Haneke calls Amour his most personal film, inspired by his own experiences dealing with the suffering of loved ones and their desire for euthanasia.
“There was a relative I loved very much, and I had to look on as she suffered. I wanted to investigate this feeling of being able to do nothing about it.”
The film is a poignant blend of his memories and fictional accounts of the aunt who had raised him in mind. She had rheumatism when she was in her nineties and once pleaded with him to put her to sleep. In the end, she committed suicide.
Did You Know This About Amour?
- The movie’s original titles were “These Two” and “The Music Stops” before star Jean-Louis Trintignant suggested to director Michael Haneke that because the movie was about love, why not call it Amour (French for Love) one day at lunch. The movie was given the name Amour because director Michael Haneke believed the term fit the story well and made sense.
- Nothing in the script was changed while it was being produced. The movie was filmed verbatim from the script, word by word. They are loosely based on the director Michael Haneke’s own experiences. The paintings seen in the film belong to Haneke’s parents, and his aunt suffered from a degenerative illness.
- Because of his enthusiasm for Michael Haneke, Jean-Louis Trintignant, who had formally resigned from cinema acting to concentrate on stage work, consented to take on the part of the male lead.
- Although Emmanuelle Riva was highly uncomfortable with the idea of having a naked scene in the movie, she ultimately decided to participate because she felt that it was crucial to the plot and that she would perform it as Anne, the character she was portraying, and not as herself.
- For the part of Anne, Emmanuelle Riva, and numerous other seasoned French actresses appeared in auditions. The first breakfast scene, in which Anne suffers her first attack, was used at the audition. According to Michael Haneke, Riva’s performance in that sequence caught his attention the most, and he decided to cast her in the movie.
Morality’s Dance with Matters of the Heart
Old age is not for the weak, and neither is this movie. Trintignant and Riva courageously take on these roles, taking all the luster out of their long careers. Their beauty has faded but still shines from within. He calmly accepts the reality of age, failure, and the disintegration of the ego.
In one of Anne’s last conscious moments, she examines a photo album and comments: “So beautiful… Life… Long life.” However, visual and idealistic memories rarely acknowledge the reality of a long life. Just as Haneke frequently asks viewers to confront their stories or their roles as spectators, with Amour he addresses beauty and horror in equal measure. royal in everyday life.
Memories and projections about the people we remember continue to exist. We cling to them jealously, just as we cling to the lives of those who want to be liberated. Haneke’s most famous film suggests that love has more dimensions than one might think, just as life alternates between harmonious moments and inevitable conclusions. Through simple imagery and a steadfast depiction of old age, Haneke reminds viewers that the purest love is knowing when to let go.