Filmmaker Michael Haneke does not make easy films to watch. Though often undeniably entertaining, he is a director more interested in challenging audiences with his art form than he is entertaining them. Funny Games (1997) is a film that the director said was intended to get audiences to leave the theater, almost a test of endurance meant to jar audiences from the place of traditional complacent voyeurism we bring to a darkened theater. The act of watching is thematically significant in Haneke’s latest masterpiece, Amour.
What we are watching is the difficult end to a long and gratifying love story, and we watch it without musical manipulation or forced sentimentality. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) have lived a fabulous life when a silent stroke begins the slow end to their romance and Anne’s life. With such a simple storyline Amour is inevitably a film about performances, and they are spectacularly and bravely played by two film legends that have literally aged before our eyes through the years. But it is also a film about direction, and what Haneke is willing to show us.
In one sequence Georges is unexpectedly visited by their obtusely intrusive daughter (Isabelle Huppert) and he describes many of the difficult daily acts that must be endured caring for his dying wife. Georges also mentions that these are not events deserving of being seen, and though he is speaking to his insensitive daughter, Haneke also seems to be talking to the audience through these lines. We are not forced to endure more voyeuristic pain than necessary and the director’s choices in what to show and how editing quickens the passage of time is an act of mercy which also runs parallel to the film’s poignant narrative.
This is not an easy film to sit through, despite the way editing manages to quicken the timeline. It is also not an indulgent film, or one that begs for adoration, despite the glowing reviews and many awards. The Blu-ray includes a making-of featurette, along with a filmed Q&A session with Haneke.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 10/10
Historical Significance: 8/10
Disc Features: 6/10