Starring: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Released December 19, 2012
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Rotten Tomatoes Synopsis: Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple’s bond of love is severely tested.
“Amour” opens with the police discovery of the decomposed body of an elderly French woman in her bed, surrounded by flower petals. We then get a brief flashback to the life of a cultured, sophisticated French couple, enjoying their golden years – an evening at a concert, stimulating conversation – before she suffers a stroke.
When Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) returns home from the hospital, wheelchair-bound but mentally intact, she makes her husband, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), promise to never send her back. She says there is no reason to go on living in her current state, and she does not want to be a burden on Georges. His attentiveness and solicitousness, while necessary, rankle her. A second stroke leaves Anne in much worse shape, both physically and mentally. His vow to her leaves him almost as trapped as she is, while she sinks deeper into depression and despair over her body’s betrayal.
Viewers, particularly those who have experienced the heartbreak of caretaking for a loved one, will have reactions just as disparate as those expressed by the couple’s family, friends, and caretakers. Some will feel admiration for a husband’s unwavering dedication to his wife. Others will feel frustration at his refusal to break a promise that has caused his life to be condemned to one in which he must stand by and watch as his wife deteriorates and slowly dies. Everyone will pity the formerly vibrant woman who makes clear that she does not want to live in her bed-ridden, helpless condition, no longer able to communicate.
There’s not a moment of levity in “Amour.” But there are two exceptional performances by Riva and Trintignant in a film that takes place almost entirely in the confines of their apartment. This couple’s experience is unfortunately not uncommon, but that does not make it any less devastating to watch.
Review posted at Amazon