DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke | WRITER Michael Haneke | CAST: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud | Austria
I’ll get it out of the way right at the beginning: Amour is an exceptionally well made, exceptionally well acted film. It is also exceptionally chilly if not cold, distancing, and for all the critical praise its received for its daring, shocking, unsparing honesty about dying and death, it’s restrained and it managed to shock me not at all. Michael Haneke’s control-freak attention to detail perfectly matches the chilly control freaks at the center of the film. Georges and Anne are a married couple in their 80s, retired piano teachers of some note — one of Anne’s former students is a world-famous concert pianist who pays homage to her when he’s in Paris — and they live in enormous, elegantly appointed apartment filled with books and music and art, but there’s no warmth there. Comfort, yes, and an orderly and composed equanimity, but these are not warm and cuddly old folks. Throughout Anne’s strokes and mounting physical and mental deterioration Georges exercises restraint and an exterior calm that he relaxes only briefly, in flashes. Anne, too, has a steely resolve and she maintains control for as long as she can without letting anything disrupt her calm exterior. And it is those exteriors, the very materiality of George and Anne’s life together which is now rapidly coming to a close that Haneke is interested in and conveys so well, so it’s completely inexplicable to me why he introduces fantasy elements that are so crudely symbolic. Did we really need to see that dream sequence? Or the pigeon that gets trapped in the apartment and set free — twice? The acting throughout is superb, but I must single out Isabelle Huppert as Georges and Anne’s middle-aged and completely self-centered daughter. Huppert’s acting is extraordinarily nuanced and the daughter’s feelings about her father — impatience, irritation, exasperation, even hatred — are always clear if imperfectly masked.
[I’m sorry about this review. I’m finding it difficult to put my thoughts down but I figured I’d better put something down now and come back to it later rather than not write anything at all.]