Insightful. Original. Exquisite. Georges and Anne have known a lifetime of love within their intimate marriage. Though their bond has survived time’s test, it’s about to meet its greatest challenge. Acclaimed director Michael Haneke brings a performance tour-de-force to the screen in a film that exalts the beautiful, compassionate and courageous within us all.
An elegant elderly couple faces the ultimate challenge in Austrian auteur Michael Haneke's carefully controlled, emotionally devastating Amour. Retired music professors Anne (Emmanuelle Riva, Hiroshima Mon Amour) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant, The Conformist) enjoy their last good day together when they attend the concert of a former student (pianist Alexandre Tharaud as himself). The next day, Anne freezes at the kitchen table for a few minutes, after which she goes on as if nothing happened. Georges encourages her to see a doctor, who recommends surgery, but the operation fails, and she suffers a second stroke that paralyzes her right side. Georges copes the best he can with help from neighbors and home-care workers, but Anne rapidly loses the ability to function on her own, even to communicate, which upsets their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert, Haneke's The Piano Teacher). Georges' stoic acceptance elicits praise from onlookers, but Haneke reveals the cracks in his façade: the nightmares, the paranoia (his encounters with a persistent pigeon), and a series of actions that blur the lines between madness and compassion; though there's no reason to suggest the two can't coexist. Riva and Trintignant, among the finest actors France has produced, couldn't be better, but this is a difficult film to enjoy in any conventional sense--the word appreciate might be more appropriate--since Anne's infirmity obscures the love that binds these people to each other and becomes a sort of invisible monster, making Amour one of the more chilling horror stories in recent memory. --Kathleen C. Fennessy