Amour * * * *
Early on in Michael Haneke’s latest film, after discovering that his wife Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) is in the beginnings of immanent medical decline, Georges (Jean Louis Trintignant) says, “We’ve always coped” because for him anything else isn’t an option. Amour (love in French) is the film’s title, but also its explanation –the lens through which every scene it contains must be viewed. As Georges and Anne unwittingly stand at the precipice of the future that her health will bring, she says to him, “I don’t understand” to which he replies, “Neither do I.” But they know they will face it together, as they always have. Age, death, and hardship find us all, but O the joy of having someone there with you when they come. And in spite of its heavy-handed material, what a joyous film Amour is.
Earlier this year in his film Elena, Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev established a baseline of routine. Without cementing a natural order, a change to it wouldn’t have been impactful. Using even less screen-time than Zvyagintsev, Haneke too solidifies a baseline for Amour: In just a few scenes, Georges and Anne’s decades of marriage are clearly defined through their chemistry. These moments exemplifying the love between Georges and Anne start the audience’s love affair with each of them. We love Anne just as Georges does so that when her body suddenly freezes and her face goes blank over breakfast, both Georges’ and our fears are palpable. Haneke’s complete lack of soundtrack in his film coupled with its spacial confinement to the couple’s apartment aide in establishing a true sense of home. These same auditory and visual techniques are what Haneke eventually utilizes to create cinematic claustrophobia and deafening silences.