I can not recommend Amour. It’s a superb film to be sure – immaculately directed and beautifully performed, but it’s also extremely difficult to sit through particularly if you’ve ever experienced the slow and brutal death of a loved one.
This French production is currently in the process of winning every film award known to man, and it will undoubtedly win big at this year’s Academy Awards. I can’t say it doesn’t deserve all of these accolades. The plot is fairly simple: an elderly man is tormented as he watches his loving wife gradually wither away in her final days. It’s an impactful showcase of the power of enduring love, but it’s also traumatizing to watch. Michael Haneke, Amour‘s director, certainly knows how to get under his audience’s skin. Many times throughout the film, he simply places the camera in the corner of a room and lets it linger past moments you would normally expect to be edited (characters turning their backs, faces beyond the lens frame). In the process, he makes the audience feel like voyeurs as the scenes unfold and we watch every private detail of the characters’ lives from a distance. Simply put, the film is uncompromising and terrifyingly realistic.
Emmanuelle Riva plays the film’s leading lady, and she’s astounding. The woman genuinely frightened me, tapping into the most primal emotions and capturing the most unflinching and intricate nuances of a person approaching death. I lost my own mother last year and she went through many of the same symptoms during her final months so I found it especially painful and heartbreaking to watch. Nevertheless, I can’t but commend the cast and crew for bringing to life such a vivid albeit distressing portrayal of life’s most horrifying ordeal.
Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Riva’s husband George, and he’s highly impressive as well. He basically carries the other half of the film and he does so with grace and poise. He’s not getting nearly as much praise as his role isn’t the obvious one, but he does an extraordinary job conveying the wide spectrum of emotions the character undergoes.
Amour is an unforgettable and heartwrenching depiction of death and love. However, I just wanted the film to be over so I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. Sometimes, when something is this realistic and relentless, it’s better to just avoid it.