Film Review: AMOUR (directed by Michael Haneke)

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by Kevin Bowen on December 14, 2012

in Film

MECHANICAL BUT EFFECTIVE

Any review of Michael Haneke’s Amour should start by noting what a moving story it tells. Did I cry during Amour? Two-ply tissues. Amour gives a gentle but chilling view into the final months of a woman’s life, and the frustration of a husband who must care for his loved one as she slowly passes away.

Kevin Bowen’s Stage and Cinema film review of AMOUR

However I approach Amour with two minds.  As a touching depiction of life struggling toward an end, Amour is a beautifully crafted drama – with honest, well written dialogue and clear, simple direction. As the latest representative of European arts and its predilection toward suffocating gloom, it is a mechanical thrill ride for Existential depressives. Twice the winner at Cannes, Haneke is essentially the Steven Spielberg of this genre.

Winner of the Palm D’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Amour is part of the tradition in high-end European art cinema: The best way to find eternal truth is to stare deeply into the bony dread of living. Amour comes from the same cloth as Alejandro Amenábar’ s assisted suicide hagiography The Sea Inside and Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. The trend also includes Haneke’s last film, The White Ribbon.

Kevin Bowen’s Stage and Cinema film review of AMOUR

Last year, Melancholia ended up on my top 10 list, even with my fundamental disagreement with its sometimes cynical worldview. Melancholia took a similarly gloomy premise – a depressed woman, the destruction of Earth by a rogue planet – and built on it with intelligent social observation and a director’s impish sense of humor.  Whatever you wish to say about Von Trier and that film, the Danish director used that framework to wryly draw out observations about the way we live.

The White Ribbon possessed some of those qualities, even if its coldness and cynicism turned it into a horse-whipping experience. Amour is a less nimble animal. The emotions are touchingly rendered and real, such as when Jean-Louis Trintigant helps Emmanuelle Riva take a few gingerly steps around an empty room, and those who have experienced the death of a loved one could well find it cathartic on a personal level. But the film comes from a tradition that has said a lot and doesn’t have much left to say. Amour comes from this same intellectual tradition – one which has stopped growing because it too rarely lets in enough sunlight to question itself – but still manages to shed light on this oft-visited genre.

Kevin Bowen’s Stage and Cinema film review of AMOUR

photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Amour
Sony Pictures Classics, Wega Film, and Les Films de Losange
rated PG-13
in limited release on December 19, 2012

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