Anne and George, octogenarian retired piano teachers, are having breakfast and chatting along happily about the previous night’s successful concert of one of their former pupils at the Théâtre des Champs-Éöysées until Anne ceases to react or move. George asks her what the matter is, if anything is wrong without receiving an answer or even any sign that Anne has heard him. He leaves the table, opens the tap to wet a towel and cools her forehead and neck, but still no reaction. Increasingly concerned, George leaves the kitchen, walks through the corridor into their bedroom. Then the tap stops running, he returns to the kitchen to see Anne eating again. “You left the tap on”, she mentions. They break into an argument, George angrily wanting to know if Anne is playing some joke on him and she unable to comprehend his agitation.
Anne has no recollection whatsoever of the past two minutes, of him talking, who turned on the tap or why there are drops of water on her shirt.
“Amour”, Michael Haneke’s latest film and winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s film festival in Cannes shows how a person’s physical and mental deterioration affects one’s environment, most notably that of one’s closest family.
After the initial harmonic scenes, Anne (Emannuelle Riva – Hiroshima Mon Amour) has her first stroke, later a second and we see her health deteriorate gradually over the course of a year or so, whilst George (Jean-Louis Trintignant – Trois Couleurs: Rouge), after promising Anne not to send her to a hospital, takes care of her until the end, caught in his own house, hardly ever leaving it and hardly ever seeing anyone other than his daughter (Isabelle Huppert – La Pianiste, The Piano Teacher) who visits occasionally.
Haneke, who also won the Golden Palme for his last film (Das Weiße Band – The White Ribbon (and should also have won for his previous film Caché – Hidden) has created a film that asks all the important questions without falling into the trap of giving answers it cannot offer, whilst dealing with some of the most important issues in life, issues that we all will have to face at some point or another in our lives.
Amour is a masterful example of Haneke’s ability to show common topics in a new and engaging way without ever falling into the trap of sentimentality. The interaction between him and the great performances by Riva and Trintignant create an experience that extends far beyond the film’s actual running time and will not be forgotten.
Amour opens Friday 16th November in Cinemas.