FIVE STARS An ageing man is loosing his wife to dementia.
DRAMA FRANCE French #AMOUR
Starring Jean-Louis Trintegnant, Emmanuelle Riva
A more profound film about ageing you will not see. In their mid-eighties, George and Anne are a confident couple making good use of their late years. Former music teachers, they live in modestly comfortable surroundings, attend concerts, are respected in cultivated circles. Then Anne has a minor stroke, followed by another, much more severe. Their unshakeable bonds of commitment and love are put to the most severe test.
Never a man to make the same film twice, Michael Haneke (Hidden, The White Ribbon) is celebrated for his unflinching gaze, one that here is given an exceptional work out. The brilliance of Amour, and it is a brilliant film, is his willingness to let the camera run and wring every drop of emotion out of a scene. A film which gives us the survivor's point-of-view when a partner wilts and dies is burdened with emotion and we're not spared a moment of either Anne or George's grief as life's other certainty does its worst.
If not retirement exactly, Haneke lured Jean-Louis Trintegnant out of a performance hiatus. He and Emmanuelle Riva are simply magnificent in their roles. They invest George and Anne with quiet dignity as they wrestle with a confusing, at times terrifying, new reality to their lives. There's not a moment that they're not totally, utterly convincing. Isabelle Huppert as their ineffectual, fly-in daughter makes a poignant if painful counterpoint. The decision to film almost entirely in the couple's apartment (you'll know every centimetre of their home before this is over) ensures a suffocating experience.
Comparisons to Tristan and Isolde are not unfounded as this everyday tragedy takes on Shakespearian dimensions while George and Anne reveal the terrifying demands of true love. The inevitability of Amour may be crushing, but the reasons this couple feels such extraordinary pain (and by extension we feel it too) is both beautiful and inspiring. I rather think that's the point of this Palm D'Or winning and quite uncompromising masterpiece.