'Amour' Cannes Review: Michael Haneke's Version of Love is a Little Dry

'Amour' Cannes Review: Michael Haneke's Version of Love is a Little Dry

May 21, 2012

There are many moments that will connect you to the power of Amour, and there are just as many that will disconnect. That is a typical feeling when watching a Michael Haneke film. He's the man behind Cache and The White Ribbon. White didn't do much for me but bore, while my emotional connection to Amour was much deeper. I assume Haneke feels the same way.

A fantastic, gripping opening starts us off as police burst through an apartment door, and peer at the outside of a room that could be the distant, foreign cousin to a certain room in Seven. A woman is dead. This film isn't about a deadly sin, it's about love. The elderly couple that we get to know very well is Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva). In a sad and terrifying moment, Anne is stricken with an illness. Now Georges must care for her. Both are proud, private people who don't even appreciate the love and attention from their daughter if it also means she has to see her mother like this. Trintignant and Riva give wonderfully-aged performances that fill you with the future pain of aging. I have no idea if Trintignant has a natural limp, but it's a hell of a thing to watch.

While the pace is very slow, there is a tension because of that opening scene and a quality scare about a third of the way through the film. Unfortunately, that tension gives way and we are left as a very stationary fly on the wall of this apartment. I kept thinking I was about to be sad, but true sadness never hit, tears never fell (which normally do quite easily for me when watching movies). The closest I came was when I drifted off with my own thought that Anne might actually resemble my wife when she gets to be that age. It seems to truly connect with this film you'll need to bring your own thoughts of frail mortality. Instead, I often found myself thinking, "Why is Haenke bothering to show this housekeeper vacuuming? Why isn't he ever showing Georges prepare a meal?"

If you know this director's previous works, you know he's very controlling with his camera and what he allows you to see. Too many times it feels like he's the only one who truly gets it. There is a line in the film about imagining something, and the reality of it not having much in common. There is much reality shown in the aging/dying process of Georges and Anne. It does feel like Haneke's most personal work, but we've never really considered him warm before, right?

For a while there is a real-life (methodically paced) horror film for grandparents and their loved ones. The relationship between Georges and Anne is a beautiful one. With a running time well over two hours, Haenke shows his version of love, there just isn't quite enough of it too keep me totally absorbed in Amour.

3 out of 5 stars

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