Monday, December 17, 2012

Film Review: Michael Haneke's Amour

Unflinching.  Harrowing.  Terrifying.  Undeniably disturbing.  All these things can describe Amour, the new French-language film from infamous world-renowned director Michael Haneke.  In fact, all these things can describe, for better or for worse, just about every film Haneke has ever made.  Now the Austrian-born auteur does have a lot of haters out there, and this style of filmmaking - this undeniable disturbance - is the reason for such rabid hatred, but whether you love or hate the man - and I do not think there is very often anything in between these two divisive emotions when it comes to M. Haneke - upon seeing this, his eleventh feature film, one can add a new, as of yet unseen descriptive to the filmmaker's list of synonymic attributes.  This addition is humanity.  Granted, this new found humanity is probably not going to sway any of these aforementioned haters over to his side of thinking, but nevertheless, it does come as quite a shock, even to this critic - a critic that has always been in the director's corner from almost day one.

I for one have always admired the director's lack of humanity - his coldly calculating dismantling of societal norms, and therefore of humanity itself - and this has always been the most dependable, for lack of a more apt term, ideal in the director's chillingly disturbing oeuvre.  And yes, I do realize that in order for the director to dismantle humanity in his work, he must first portray humanity, so yes, it is there, but only as a way to a means.  Here, in his Palme d'Or winning Amour (the director's second such honour), we watch the tale of an octogenarian Parisian couple who find themselves at an end-of-life crisis that may very well be too much for either to handle. Haneke inserts a surprising amount of humanity into this film.  But do not get me wrong, for even though this film is full of the humanity most of his other work, though purposefully so, has been lacking, this by no means is to say that his new film is lacking any of the unflinching, harrowing, terrifying and quite undeniably disturbing content that most of his pictures have in veritable spades.  It is still there, still there most indeed.

Playing out as almost a funeral march, full of somber chamber pieces (the aforementioned elder couple are both musicians and music teachers), Haneke's film may be a hard beast to watch for many - there, but for the grace of god go I, kind of thing - which is something anyone familiar with the auteur is already well aware of, and should be expecting, but what makes the film even more harrowing, and for that matter, gives the film that extant, and terrifying humanity we inevitably must surprisingly speak of, are the performances of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as Georges and Anne, the aging couple, respectively.  Their life of comfortable luxury is thrown asunder when Anne suffers a stroke.  Her desire to no longer be a burden on her husband and his frustration at not being able to care for her properly, are etched upon these actor's faces in such desperate clarity, that only a soulless bastard would be unaffected by these performances.  In the end, we the viewer are left pondering our own, inevitable demise.  I, for one, wonder how I would deal with the pressures of such a situation, no matter which side I was on.  Haneke, in all his treacherous glory, has created a film that, in its stark and uncompromising humanity, is more terrifying than any of the so-called monster movies from the director's past. 


Supercords said...

Certainly one of the worst films to have to sit through from 2012, along with Beasts of the Southern Wild and Les Misérables.

Rating: F+

The plus is because he finally snuffs out her life with a pillow, allowing the movie to finally end.


Reid P said...

Good rreading your post