Winner of the 2012 Palme d'Or at Cannes, this French drama directed by Michael Haneke examines old age, infirmity and mortality as it depicts the relationship of a couple in their eighties. In cinemas Thursday February 28.
Michael Haneke's films always take place in the shadow of something unspeakable. In his debut, 1989's The Seventh Continent, it was madness; in his last film, 2009's Palme D'Or-winning The White Ribbon, it was Naziism. Here, in his most celebrated work (also a Palme D'Or winner), it is, simply, death.
One evening, elderly couple Georges (Trintignant) and Anne (Riva) come back to their lovely, lived-in flat after a classical music concert. In the night, Georges wakes to find Anne, confused, staring off into the darkness. In the morning, her brain freezes while washing up - the onset of dementia.
Over the next few months, the image of running water – something natural but impossible to control, the ordinary becoming overwhelming – infects Georges' dreams as Anne's mental and physical health deteriorate. With terrifying speed, she slips from walking stick to wheelchair, having difficulty washing herself to wetting the bed. Anne is incensed and mortified; Georges is patience personified. Still, an uncharacteristic flash of temper from him is one of the most shocking things you'll see onscreen all year.
While Haneke, that most precise of directors, has no qualms getting down to the grim technicalities of decay, he might just have softened a little bit too. In fact, Amour's biggest surprise is not that it's movingly acted and extremely harrowing, but that it's the most optimistic of all his films. Although nothing can spare Georges and Anne from life's final indignities, they do have one weapon against what's waiting for us all in the wings: love.