Review: Amour

Johannes Lenhard 12 December 2012

The amiable elderly couple, Anne and Georges, both retired piano-teachers, at first don’t know what it is that turns their Parisian apartment into a different world, a universe the audience will never leave. ‘Qu’est-ce qui se passe?’, Anne asks. Their marital bliss, which had tied them together for many decades, slowly mutates when Anne suffers her first stroke. Physical intimacy opposes spiritual tenseness, fatigue stands vis-a-vis will.

Outsiders, such as the master-student Alexandre who surprisingly visits, immediately notice their impropriety in the protective net of routine. Even the couple’s daughter, Eva, is forced to stand still and observe the rapid deterioration. Haneke’s film shows it all: the still hopeful, exhausting gymnastic in bed, the nurse washing the yelling naked body, Georges’ fearful lonely nights full of ambiguity. Every act of daily practice turns into agony. The coldly lit apartment becomes a claustrophobic cage. Life becomes nasty and humiliating, undignified and full of shame. Unbearable silences are disrupted by Anne’s gibberish. Haneke makes us witnesses of a love story that finds its insufferable end deeply intertwined in a nexus of trust, omniscience and human failures.

Georges and Anne are splendidly played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. Riva in particular does not fear the degrading ugliness, the loss of humanity. Amour is about this loss – and the other side of it: infinite love. This film is beyond any star-rating. Phenomenal.

Johannes Lenhard