Movie Review: “Amour” – Mesmerizing Mundanity

Written by Travis Pulchinski December 31, 2012

Amour Jean-Louis Trintignant

So often in mainstream cinema we see examples of films that swing for the fences, striving for magnificence with complex narratives, incredible computer graphics, epic locations and star-studded casts.  Yet often these most ambitious of films are unsuccessful in their inability to capture the authenticity of a human relationship.  As the “Star Wars” prequels and “Twilight” Series have clearly demonstrated, simply casting two attractive people in the roles of lovers is often not enough to convey believable romantic chemistry onscreen, and many big movies have suffered thanks to their forced, phony love stories.  In “Amour”, we see a film that adopts a different approach.  In extreme simplicity and a focus on realism and believability, “Amour” tells the simplest of stories in the most affecting of ways.

“There are still many stories I haven’t told you”

“Amour” is the latest film from Austrian director Michael Haneke.  It has garnered great praise after premiering at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d’Or, and will likely be among the nominees for this years Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.  The story itself is as simple as they come.  Georges and Anne Laurent are an aged couple living together in the comfort in their apartment in France.  Anne suffers a stroke that eventually leaves her partially paralyzed.  Georges is charged with caring for his beloved wife as her condition worsens, and is forced to cope with not only the physical burdens of her treatment, but also with the mental anguish of watching the woman he loves wither away before his eyes.

Amour Director

Director Michael Heneke

Elegant Simplicity

“Amour”‘s cinematography and editing reflect the subject matter it depicts.  The shooting style consists nearly entirely of long, predominantly static shots, holding on a single angle for minutes at a time.  Just as the characters must move with aching reluctance in their old age, every shot is an investment, meant to add the most meaning with the smallest motion.  Each cut is given added implication due to the conscientious nature of the editing.  This deliberate pace allows for a naturalistic feel, wherein the characters speak in what sometimes sounds like unscripted dialogue.  The performances are phenomenal, completely immersing you in the realism of the story and providing the audiences with a totally convincing experience.  Additional praise must be given to actress Emmanuelle Riva, who plays Anne, and whose incredible performance provides a pulse to the heartbreaking narrative.

Emmanuelle Riva as Anne

Many will undoubtedly find this film to be tedious.  Admittedly, had I been in an even slightly hyperactive mood upon viewing it, I might have found myself in a similar state of ennui (that’s French!).  However I purposely postponed my viewing of “Amour” until I was in a sufficiently ruminative state of mind to appreciate it (approximately 2am).  This should really be anyone’s deciding factor in whether to give “Amour” a try or not.  If you are easily bored odds are you will give up on “Amour” less than five minutes in.  But if you are willing to open yourself up a little, expose your emotions and engage with the film, it will take you on a remarkable, and quite frankly, terrifying ride.

Jean-Louis Trintignant

Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges

My emotions! MY EMOTIONS!!

As human beings we are cursed with the knowledge of our impending physical and mental deterioration and eventual death.  An aspect of life we all must someday face, but try to avoid thinking about it.  Personally, as someone who is terrified of growing old and feeble, I found “Amour” to be an enlightening but trying experience.  It made me uncomfortable but also allowed me to confront some of these fears and perhaps learn to come to terms with them to some degree.  While it’s probably not what most audiences want from their viewing experience, it’s rare to find a film that so authentically examines what is perhaps the most fascinating part of life.  If you’re brave enough to face it head on, you might just love “Amour”.

My rating: 7.5/10

amour movie poster

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