This is the first time a Foreign film was nominated for best picture since LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (I think). A non-English speaking film has to be pretty damn good for the Academy to recognize it. This movie is directed by Michael Haneke. For most of his films, you kind of have to really like him or appreciate his approach in order to enjoy his work. I’m kind of on the fence. I think he’s a very talented filmmaker. Love his visual style. Now, I’ve only seen a couple of his movies. FUNNY GAMES and THE WHITE RIBBON. Of those films, I got what he was trying for but in the end, they didn’t work for me. But I was going into this one eager to see what very well could be his masterpiece.
The story focuses on an elderly couple, Georges and Anne. Georges used to be a music professor (I think). Anyway, one day Anne spaces out for about 2 minutes and is unresponsive to her husband. This scares the heck out of him. Then I guess Anne has a stroke (that part was left out, it immediately jumps to where she is getting out of the hospital, it was pretty jarring). In a nutshell, Anne is slowly dying. She’s losing her memory, her ability to walk and speak. But Georges does his best to pretend that everything is going to be okay. He’s also visited by his daughter and a former pupil who is now a famous musician. And that’s about it. The movie is just how Anne’s deterioration wares down on her loved ones.
This movie is tremendously acted. Emannuelle Riva got an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Anne. She’s quite good here. As she’s first introduced, I found her quite adorable, so it was heartbreaking to watch her lose her ability to function. And you can see the pain and sadness in her eyes, even when she can’t verbally express herself. It’s a heartbreaking performance that is never theatrical or showy. Just as good is Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges. I felt like his performance was even more demanding since he has to convey more emotions. He is trying so hard to make everything okay, but he eventually reaches a point when he realizes that he’s useless. He’s fantastic. The other performers, Isabelle Huppert and Alexandre Tharaud, aren’t in it too much but do a decent job.
Visually the film looks great. I love how Haneke lets the camera linger on the actors for minutes at a time. This makes the performances all the more powerful. There’s also some good steadicam work as well. The story itself is heartbreaking. But…….and it’s a BIG but…… this is a Haneke film. So he just couldn’t help himself. Instead of having a traditional narrative, he fucks it up a bit. In fact, it’s ALMOST straight forward. But on purpose (like he does in his other films I’ve seen) he leaves important and pivotal scenes out. And he leaves some important information out too. Like it took me almost an hour to realize that the girl visiting him was his daughter and that the young man was Georges former student (I thought it was his son for the first half of the film). Why leave that info out? Unless leaving it out is important to the movie (it’s not)? The narrative also doesn’t really make it clear what happens to Anne all of the time. The movie could have had scenes where Anne had her strokes (she has 2). By the time she had her second one (it took me awhile to figure it out), I was getting annoyed. No, I don’t need things spelt out for me all the time, but it just felt that Haneke was deliberately leaving important shit out for the sake of being different and artistic. It’s a bit pretentious and indulgent. And that’s too bad, cause this COULD have been a great movie. The ending is pretty effective too, and will definitely get people talking.
Now, if you love Haneke, you’re going to most likely love this movie. If you hate his style, you’ll still hate his style. And if you were on the fence about Haneke….. then you’ll still be on the fence about him. Me? I’m on the fence. I think he’s tremendously talented, I just wish he would get off his high horse and make a fucking movie instead of jerking the audience around. AMOUR features some excellent performances from its leads and great filmmaking from Haneke. Unfortunately, the director’s addiction to being pretentious takes over, as he leaves out important information on purpose, just to be different. His self-indulgent approach is getting old to me. His devoted fans will like it, but others will most likely be scratching their heads trying to figure out how this got a Best Picture nomination. ★★½ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language.
– Running time: 2hrs. 1min.