Only during TIFF could I start my Sunday morning with such a beautiful bummer. When I say “start my Sunday”, that is to say that I was settling in for an early dose of Haneke at 9am. Yes, like you, I’m usually still asleep at such an hour.
AMOUR is both stunning and heartbreaking, and any notions to the contrary are immediately dispelled in the film’s opening scene. The story is that of an elderly couple named George and Anne (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva). After a brief glimpse of what their loving marriage has been, we are witness to Anne having a cataclysmic episode. It’s a sign of things to come, and George is thrust into the role of caregiver, and made to witness the woman he loves rapidly deteriorate.
The film is achingly beautiful, and tremendously sad. It’s almost entirely a two-person show, though we do get the occasional appearance from a supporting character (mostly Isabelle Huppert as the couple’s only daughter Eva). It underlines some of the things we never think about when we choose the people we want to spend our lives with – such as what we will be asked to do, and we we hope they will do for us when our own bodies begin to betray us.
That devotion is what’s echoed in the film’s title (“Love” for those who don’t speak French). It’s the deepest sort of love there is – one where heavy promises are made and kept. One where an emotional burden begins to press down on both people. In such situations, only true love allows one to carry on.
Like many of Haneke’s films, things are kept at a bit of a distance – which is good, given where one would probably stand if they were in the room with these characters. The story is dotted with occasional moments of warmth, each of which go a long way in carrying us through this rough ride. But don’t go in hoping for many of them – this film is shocking and heavy, and nothing good is coming your way.
Looking back, I’m glad that this film came as late in my week as it did. It allowed me to revel in the September sunshine relatively unimpeded, have some laughs and brace myself. Had I come to it earlier, it might have taken me a day or so to get my bearings, and as it stands I think the only thing keeping me going on this final day is the fact that I followed this tale of woe with a plucky animated number.
AMOUR is painfully lovely, not for the easily affected, and one of the best films I’ve seen all year.