Friday, February 22, 2013

AMOUR: Film review by Julie Clarke (Spoiler)

Just before Georges (Jean‑Louis Trintignant) quietly places a large pillow over the face of his sleeping wife Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) who became paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair due to a operation gone wrong on her blocked carotid artery and a further stroke rendering her bed bound and unable to speak coherently; Georges tells her a story about when he was a young boy sent away to camp. He had promised he would send his mother a postcard each week with a drawing of stars on it if he was not enjoying his experience. He remembered feeling that he was reaching for her through a kind of cage. This story somehow calms Anne who has been calling out to him in pain and in the brief moment of her peacefulness he smothers her. A pigeon that has entered their apartment once before appears just after Anne’s death, but this time Georges manages to capture and release it, a metaphor of the fact that he had freed Anne from her psychological and physical pain. She had earlier in the film expressed a desire to end her life.
Amour (Michael Haneke, 2011, France) is a brilliant film with impeccable performances, but unfortunately it’s filmed in such a way that the audience members feel like they are in the room with these two brave people. The intimacy of the actors, the way they relate to each other, the obvious love and tenderness even in times of frustration could not have been portrayed so accurately. Georges utter devotion to his wife and her struggle to maintain some sense of self (that never actually leaves in his eyes) but which we see deteriorate particularly in scenes in which she has urinated in the bed and later when Georges is shown by a nurse how to change Anne’s nappy. These scenes and the one in which she is spoon fed  and dribbles and chokes each morsel, is absolutely heart-wrenching! I had to take a ten minute break from the film because I kept crying. Emmanuelle Riva was so convincing that I could no longer look at her.  I can’t image anyone seeing this movie without projecting self onto the actors. I suppose that it is a measure of the talent of these two people to have solicited such an audience response. One of the significant aspects or devices used in the film is that time appears to have slowed down. Each of the ordinary, everyday activities, such as eating, reading, listening to music, preparing for bed are stretched out and in some small way this feeling of time being extended reflects the way Anne must have felt confined to her bed and utterly dependent upon Georges.
And on that note, if you are over sixty years of age with all of the worries about stroke, heart attack, cancer, dementia etc. that already play on our minds, then be warned that this film is not going to make you feel happy. It’s probably the saddest, challenging, anxiety producing, depressive film I’ve ever seen. I can totally understand why Georges euthanized Anne and I can understand her desire not to be less than she previously was as a skilled piano teacher, mother and companion and her desire to end her life. 
A couple of days ago I was thinking about Euthanasia and placed initial thoughts on this blog. Click here

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