Amour: Love hurts

Hoy un artículo en inglés. ¿Que por qué en inglés? ¿Porque soy tope internacional? Claro que lo soy. Pero principalmente porque escribí esto para una revista de arte inglesa, creyendo que les iba a encantar, hasta que el editor me dijo “gracias, pero nos dedicamos a las exposiciones, no al cine”, y yo así me quedé con cara de gilipollas. Pues bueno, ya que me lo he trabajado, aquí va el artículo. Es una crítica de Amour, la cosa aquella de Haneke.

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Esta imagen es genial, tres héroes de acción: Arnold, Stallone y Michael Haneke

AMOUR (2012)

Director: Michael Haneke.

Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert,William Shimell.

url-1As the credits rolled, people stood up and left the room without making a sound. It was an awkward silence, as it communicated a great feeling of unease. That silence explains this movie better than any of the words I may write in this article. Suffice to say, Amour is an incredible piece of cinema. It exposes the wounds and scars of it’s characters with an almost unbearable sincerity, and when the film is finally over, one can still feel this crawling sensation of sadness growing inside.

Michael Haneke has always been a master in his very dark portrait of human nature. The underlying current in his filmography has always been violence: the way we experience it, the way we sometimes enjoy it. His films always speak to this dark side of ourselves, the beast that lurks beneath the layers of civilization. From the grim post-apocalyptic metaphors in  The Time of the Wolf, to the disturbing and violent Funny Games, Haneke has always focused on the source of violence and it’s social impact. This is why Amour is such a surprising turn in his filmography: this is not a film about violence, it’s a film about love and death. His style is still present: the awkward silences, the repressed tension, the dark emotions that lurk beneath its characters. But this time love is the driving force of it all. Not the kind fantasy of romantic love overcoming all troubles, but a love made from scars and contradictions, a rose full of spines.
The story is quite simple, a tale about Anne and Georges, a couple of retired music teachers in their eighties, living in a spacious apartment in burgeoise Paris. Shortly after
blanking out during her morning breakfast, Anne suffers a stroke and is paralyzed from the waist down. Thus starts a degenerative illness that will ultimately lead to her death, as her husband tries to make her last days of agony as bearable as possible. Excluding the concert hall at the very beginning of the film, the whole story is set inside the luxurious apartment and is centered around the couple, even if some secondary characters come to visit. Among them is Eva, played by Isabelle Huppert, the couple’s daughter who tries to deal with the situation with a great sense of guilt and confusion, often forcing Georges into conflicts that serve to surface the contradictions of their feelings and actions.

The plot is presented with a removal of all possible intrigue: Anne’s death is already announced in the very first scene of the film, thus eliminating all hope for an implausible happy ending. In past films, Haneke has used intrigue and shock as a narrative resource, often recurring to sudden outbursts of violence as a way to disturb the audience. All this melodramatic flare is absent in Amour: this film is uncompromisingly realistic, a common portrait of a couple of old age in their final descent. This is exactly what makes Amour a very difficult experience, it deals with death under the scope of a pessimistic lucidity that can easily resonate with our own experiences. It’s not a subject many people are comfortable with, and probably prefer not to come to terms with. Death is inevitable, and if it’s not an early one, chances are we will be living a tale not too different from the one in Amour. It’s a touching love story, yet simultaneously harsh.  Accepting this somber side of reality can be deeply unsettling, as it plays with some of our darkest fears.

amour-3Two hours of running time could seem quite a lot for such a minimalistic plot, and yet every scene is full of subtle details that further help to outline the relationship between its main characters, without ever bloating its running time through useless scenes. The style serves to push further the unrelenting realism of the piece: dry lights, scarce music and fix shots reinforce this chamber drama with a very theatrical presentation. It is very sober in it’s form, focusing the camera on the incredible interpretations by the veteran actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who hold over their aged shoulders the weight of a film that depends greatly on their talent. Amour is probably one of the most honest films ever done about old age, and a lot of its strength is delivered by two of the most intense performances in recent cinema.

Michael Haneke is bound to join people like Ingmar Bergman in cinema heaven. As the Swedish master did previously in Saraband (2003), Haneke explores the scars and open wounds of his characters with poignant and often painful lucidity. As I watched the film, I almost felt as if the director’s hand clenched my heart, leaving me in a state that mixed awe with sadness, but had far too much of the latter. Love hurts, and Amour knows this. It’s an oppressive film that seeks to create a strong catharsis, not too different from the one described by Aristotle when he talked about ancient Greek tragedy. By the end one feels emotionally exhausted and deeply touched. It’s not the most reassuring feeling, but it’s surely a potent one.

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One Response to “Amour: Love hurts”
  1. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article plus the rest of the site is really good.

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