When I had to decide between going to a secret Veronica Falls gig or seeing a movie, I opted for a quiet night watching Amour. I’m glad I wasn’t put off by the unfortunate title because I really enjoyed Michael Haneke’s refreshing take on death and love. Well, love when the end is near actually…The movie basically tells the story of an old couple -Anne and Georges, and takes us through their last days, showing their struggle after she falls ill and approaches her death. It is quiet disturbing viewing, but neither forced nor artificial. His approach to love is brutally honest and sincere.
I think he also twists the traditional roles of men and women by choosing the female character as the one who falls ill. Yes, she is the ‘weak’ one but contrary to the conventional way in which the woman is the caretaker in the house, this time it is the male character who tends to the needs of the female and runs the daily household routine (which almost never happens in male-dominated cultures like Turkey, on or off-screen). It also makes a case of a stronger daughter-parent bond than a son-parent bond.
Another great success of Haneke lies in his unapologetic demand for empathy from the audience and the way he unashamedly gets it. He mostly achieves this with a lingering focus on the characters faces and expressions. To your utter pain, you go through the couple’s journey while feeling for both of the main characters. As the film progresses, although you feel for Anne, you also want her misery to end. It comes to a point where you cannot take it anymore and that is precisely when the male character decides to put a stop to it all.
Then you feel a sudden emptiness. You don’t know how to feel. First, you question whether it’s an act of pure selfishness. But then, Haneke asks for your sympathy by showing you how Georges still writes letters to his lost love or how he hallucinates about her. He wants you to know he has acted for a greater good and is paying for it.
I don’t know what the ultimate message here is. I want to die young and pretty? I don’t want to get old? Love is not enough? The discussion can go as far as to euthanasia. Whatever it is, this makes for a good movie. There’s some great acting in it, too, particularly from Emmanuelle Riva towards the end. But refrain from it if you are not a fan of slow, emotional, depressing films, although it has its rare funny moments. Particularly the line where the female character complains, “Ah I can only take his British humour in small doses!” is hilarious in context. Still, this story in all its honesty is not for everybody.