MRR Movie Review: Amour

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A French romantic drama film written and directed by Michael Haneke, based on his own family's real life experience with misfortune. Elderly couple Georges (Trintignant) and Anne (Riva) are both retired music teachers living an idyllic, cultivated life in France. One day Anne suffers a stroke that leaves her paralyzed on one side of her body. She and Georges' lives are changed forever, and the strength of their bond severely tested.
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Movie Review: "Amour"

Rating: PG-13 (mature themes and brief language)
Length: 127 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 20, 2012
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Genre: Drama/Romance

Austrian director Michael Haneke is known for his minimalist storytelling in dramatic-romances like "The Piano Teacher" and blood-curdling horrors like "Funny Games." In "Amour," Haneke takes a different tone while retaining his minimalist approach. The nontraditional love story stars a veteran pair of performers. Actor Jean-Louis Trintignant has starred in films since 1955 and is known for his roles in movies like "Z," "The Outside Man," "Escapade," and "The Conformist." Actress Emmanuelle Riva has an equally impressive pedigree and is known for her roles in "Hiroshima, mon amour" and "Three Colors: Blue."

Overall, "Amour" is a sparse film that gains a heart-wrenching entertainment value from the relationship between the two main characters. The movie opens with several scenes depicting old married couple Georges and Anne in daily life situations in Paris. They attend a music recital for one of Anne's students and share a simple breakfast in their apartment. During the opening scenes, Haneke introduces viewers to the deep, abiding love that Georges and Anne share. Because the couple seems to be living a life many hope to live in the future, it is both shocking and devastating when things take a sudden turn.

At the breakfast table, Anne suddenly stops responding to Georges' questions. The episode lasts only a few minutes and she doesn't even remember it, but both realize something is very wrong. Haneke keeps viewers somewhat in the dark, skipping over an unknown period of time and creating a more ominous sense regarding Anne's health. The next scene shows Georges speaking with the couple's adult daughter about the minor stroke and fallout from a surgery that should have corrected the issue. From this point, the activity in the movie is confined to the small apartment where Anne is confined to a wheelchair.

In other cases, an entire film depicted in a small apartment might provide viewers with a claustrophobic feeling. Haneke does a great job of transferring the stark film and minimal camera movement into a focused and engaging look at an enduring and devastating love story. With little room for movement and a minimal script, it takes the lifetime acting experience of both Trintignant and Riva to carry a wintry film and deliver on the storyline in such a way that viewers are drawn in, rather than alienated.

Georges and Anne fall back on their lifelong love, even in the scary circumstances. As they strive to deal with a much-changed life, Haneke does a great job of building tension without the assistance of outside action. Viewers are very aware that both characters are dealing with the fear that Anne's condition will worsen. Inevitably, she deteriorates. In his traditional, often cold, directing style, Haneke never backpedals. He takes on the themes of deterioration and disease management in an unflinching style that is hard to watch.

The ongoing love between Georges and Anne tempers Haneke's directorial approach. They begin to develop a very private life because no one can understand the daily horror and fear they deal with. Georges tells his daughter that her worrying about them does nothing to change the problem and is of no use to them. He and Anne are effectively alone in their emotional turmoil.

Even in the face of overwhelming sorrow and Anne's worsening state, the love story of "Amour" continues. Instead of becoming the end of a beautiful love story, "Amour" extends the narrative into a less beautiful, but no less endearing, phase. Haneke also takes a moment to remind viewers that sorrow at the end of the story does not replace joy that occurred throughout.

"Amour" is a film that is full of depth, artistic choices, and top-notch acting. At the European Film Awards, "Amour" won for best actor and best actress. It also took home top honors in the best picture and director categories. Other awards for the film include the Palme d'Or and best film designations from numerous critic groups.

The film is a crowning achievement that is worthy of all involved, especially veteran international performing artists, directors, and cinematographers. At the same time, the film may not be for every audience. Those who enjoy classic art films or well-developed international fare will find watching it an enjoyable experience. It is also a great film for those looking for a different type of love story, especially viewers who are tired of the same modern romances. Couples sharing the movie experience may find that it leads to an in-depth discussion and revelations about their own relationship.

Rating 4 out of 5