Tuesday, 4 December 2012


A lifetime in two hours. Michael Haneke's Amour, like all of Haneke's films, is more than sounds and images telling a story on a screen. It requires something of its audience, the final and most crucial piece in the puzzle. As an experience, Amour has not reached completion until it has been ruminated upon, thought over, understood. But with this film, Haneke is asking us no longer only to think, but also to empathise. He has lost none of his bitterness, nor even his will to provoke, but his acerbic style and rigorous techniques are put to much less cerebral usage than ever before. He allows us a glimpse of life before gradually eroding it until all that remains is one's memory of it, and one's will to find it in the smallest things. Haneke has abandoned this will, and pushes the idea (for he will always be a pusher!) that hope has been lost for Georges and Anne, and cannot be regained. The opening scene should only stress the futility of wishing for a happy ending; Haneke's honesty produces a film so relentlessly unhappy, in its darkest stretches, that this ending becomes like a release of pressure, a relief. He doesn't care for your feelings, nor for your desires nor hopes. You can't escape, either - if you want to leave before things turn sad and nasty and uncomfortable, after the opening credits would be a good time. Then and then only. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva show no sign of effort in the lead roles; they are just living, breathing, speaking, moving in front of a camera. This is a portrait of ordinary people, and they inhabit this ordinariness completely. A mere still shot of either actor would express more about their character than most actors achieve in a whole film. In just two hours, this is how it is possible that we come to know not just this painful episode in their lives, but their entire lives.