Amour (12A)

Written and Directed by Michael Haneke
Showing at FACT from 23rd November - 11th December, 2012

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

The body of an old woman lies in state bedecked with flower petals like a modern day Ophelia. This is no homage to Pre-Raphaelite sensitivity but a last act of devotion to a departed spouse: a beginning to an end.

Life has been good to Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trintignant). A successful middle-class existence is attested by the relative comfort and opulence of a culturally-stocked, large flat; numerous books, records, CDs, oil paintings and a grand piano – why not? Anne has been a fine tutor of the instrument in her prime. In addition their daughter (Eva, Huppert) is happily married and is artistically involved herself.

So why will Haneke's film become stomach-churning to watch?

The action begins in an anticipatory packed concert hall but the camera scans the crowd, seeking out the couple on which the action will turn. The strident, discordant first note of Schubert's Impromptu No 12, played by Anne's protégé and rising star, erupts, presaging the trauma that will engulf the pair as the drama and their anguish are internalised for the rest of the emotive, slow-moving action.

She will now only leave the flat once more for a hospital operation, following increasing 'attention deficit disorder' incidents. She returns home with the additional catastrophe of paralysis to her left hand side, caused by a stroke. 'A 5% chance', Georges tells Eva, as they earnestly discuss the prognosis – and this will be as good as it gets.

Georges settles down to the long haul of caring for his wife. At first, life goes on normally; they sleep in the marriage bed, eat reasonably well, discuss domestic and worldly matters as usual, read and listen to music.

As her abilities to speak and comprehend diminish so does their routine existence, which falls into disarray. Dishevelled and in painful discomfort himself Georges looks to her every need with increasing compassion and foreboding. Extra help is now needed. An orthopaedic bed and a motorised wheelchair bring some comfort (the latter also a few uplifting moments) before additional nursing help, both sympathetic and objectionable, are required. All to no avail.

Despite everything Anne's will to live has gone – but when will death come, and how?

There is a lot to ponder when a blank and silent screen confronts the audience as they, too, depart. The end will live long in the collective memory and the performances of the two leads in this film, along with it's outstanding Director, are well deserving of the 2012 Cannes Palme D'Or Award.

Read Darren Guy's review of Amour here


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