My first time viewing a film from the filmography of director Michael Haneke was inevitable. I had expected near enough perfection, especially given the universally high acclaim of his works. Amour is a slice of elderly life; a piece Haneke writes and directs us through with relative ease.
Amour is a painfully slow movie, and I mean that with loving praise and not general disgust. Its aching ability to stretch out the most basic of interactions really gives a sense of who we as an audience will be spending our time with. An old couple collectively battling ailing health, when one of them is affected by a stroke puts strain on their relationship, and Haneke’s slow pacing is crucial in representing the dwindling love between the two. The strain it places on their relationship is highlighted in brutally clear detail, bringing with it an obvious, emotionally charged narrative.
Performed with a spectacular dedication to their roles, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva provide believable and immediately engaging presentations of elderly couple Georges and Anne Laurent. Trintigant’s nervous approach to his wife’s indisposed health spars well with Riva’s ability to bring out a headstrong attitude in the face of a debilitating medical affliction. Beautiful writing in a script from Haneke provides us with ample time to get to know these characters, learning of their highs and lows. Riva steals the show, presenting carefully crafted highs and debilitating lows in a crucially well-acted performance. Her persona when in public with friends compared to that of her emotional wellbeing when alone with her husband is frequently highlighted in beautifully harrowing scenes that show the mental state of a recent stroke survivor.
Haneke isn’t afraid to shy away from harsh realities, and his ability to allow his story plenty of room to breathe is perhaps his greatest achievement. We receive more than our fair share of scenes contemplating the various ways people deal with medical trouble. Trintigant provides a great performance that shows one of concern, fear, love and anger all at the same time, a scattershot of emotions prevalent in just about every scene he and Riva share. The amount of breathing room left by Haneke for these two performances is vital for their ability to impact an audience, the build-up necessary for Reva and Trintigant’s work to impact us emotionally is there in abundance.
An opening shot that provides us with the mediation of when the inevitable will occur rather than if is a nice way of easing us into a plot built so wholly on these two characters. It pays off exceptionally well, and Haneke provides a strong piece of film with marvellous performances. He and his cast have an uncanny knack for showing the difficulties at hand when a loved one is gravely ill, and it makes for an uncomfortable yet necessary viewing.