This year’s Cannes Film Festival winner is a film like no other on the dissolution and disintegration of life and the toll it throws at love. As a five-time Academy Award nominee, “Amour“, directed by the Austrian Michael Haneke, is a spellbinding masterpiece. The superb Jean-Louis Trintignant of “A Man and a Woman” fame and the delicate Emanuelle Riva who stunned audiences in “Hiroshima, Mon Amour” are the capstone of this film.
Playing two retired octogenarian music teachers (Georges and Anne), these two masterful actors portray a deep and time-tested loving couple, sharing stories of their day with quiet tenderness and warmth. But Anne’s health declines precipitously after a mini-stroke and Georges becomes her dutiful caregiver, with little emotion towards those who worry about them, particularly his daughter Eva (played by Isabelle Huppert in a beautiful but minor role).
“Amour” demonstrates unsurpassable courage and unflinching honesty in exposing the deterioration of one’s spirit as life starts leaving it. Riva and Trintignant’s subtle, delicately nuanced performances are classic, transcending linguistic barriers and strongly touching all viewers in the audience. (The theater was so quiet, this viewer could hear the intake of breath and the quiet sobs of those nearby.) Everyone who sees this film will be affected.
Yet this is an unsentimental look at old age and dying, of decrepitude and the humiliating loss of dignity. Just as the two principal actors are intrepid in their performances, so too must the viewer be in receiving the images from the filmmaker. “Amour” is an epitaph of mourning, of having to face the certitude of death. It is painful to watch: to gaze at ageing and loss. It will overwhelm; it will be heartbreaking. Although “Amour” is the story of love and life’s end, the originality and the directness will surprise all who see this haunting film.