Sat 13 Apr 2013
Every age has it’s love films. A long time ago, during my late my teens I resonated together with the millions of young folks at my age in between the age of the hippies and the age of the yuppies to Erich Segal’s book Love Story and the film made by Arthur Hiller staring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neill. It was a sad story with two young people falling in love, getting married against the social conventions, then she falls sick, and she dies, nice music and a smart slogan that made my teen heart beat strongly (yes, I remember the girl I was with at that movie, where is she now?). Now I have seen Michael Haneke‘s Amour, probably the most awards-gatherer non-American movie of 2012, a superb film, and a very different love story. I resonated again, I was moved and even more than that, but if I am to chose which one of the two films I want to see again I will chose the older one. Actually, if I think well, Amour may be one of the rare films, maybe even the only one, I will give a grade of 10 at IMDB but I do not believe that I have the strength and in any case I do not have the will to see it again.
Michael Haneke is known for the cold approach towards his stories and heroes, sometimes at the border of cruelty. He does not spare us the viewers in Amour either, telling us the story of an old and well established couple of musicians who are hit at the end of a life of love and shared experiences by the tragedy of the malady of the woman (Emmanuelle Riva) leading to the decay of her physical and mental health. No details are spared, and the painful and inevitable process made even more pressing by the fact that there is no improvement and no chance of recovery is described in quite a lot of rather explicit details. And yet, there is no overall sense of repulsion because all this process is dominated by the dedication of the husband, who dearly takes care of his wife although the woman she was mentally disappears with everyday that passes. Riva was a candidate for best actress at the Oscars (she did not win), but it’s Jean-Louis Trintignant‘s acting that impressed me most, because it’s not spectacular, but it conveys better than everything else in the film the message in the title. It takes a lot of courage for these two actors whose career was followed by the French and international audiences for almost half of century to face the camera in a film that deals with such bluntness with the theme of the disasters of aging. They took upon the challenge and the result is strong and moving.
The whole story takes place in the interior of a Parisian apartment, and it’s amazing to see how many interesting things can me made with the camera in these few rooms. The fine acting however takes precedent and will hardly be forgotten by anybody who has seen this film. The relation between the aged couple, their shared experiences, their small conflicts, their tenderness are described in all their complexity, as well as the relation of the two with their daughter dominated not only by the gap between ages and generations, but also by the lack of power of the younger woman to help in face of the inevitable. There is one final decision, one final act of love to be made, we guess it from start, and when it comes nobody is surprised. A final scene shows the daughter entering the apartment now empty, which remained only an empty space gathering things reminding of the love that was. There is no happy end to this Love Story either.