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Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

June 22, 2012

I remember the way Haneke’s movies always startled me. It was the glacial hostility towards the viewer. There wasn’t any irony in the way Haneke mistreated cinematic language, his solutions were always questioning the limits and possibilities of cinema. The White Ribbon, as I recall, was instead more traditional (if we can ever label Haneke as traditional). Amour, somehow, continues along this path. There’s no brutal editing (71 fragments, Code Inconnu), no games between fiction and reality (Chaché), no metafilmic solutions (Funny Games, Benny’s Video).  Even so, the film manages to “rape the viewer” as usual.

Amour takes place in a single location, the house of the protagonists, except for the prologue (a perfect couple of minutes that, if seen at the cinema, could be really disquieting, even if I can’t exactly explain why). We’ll get to know this house soon and we’ll hate this sort of purgatory, where Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) wanders slowly, while his wife Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) is paralyzed in bed, slipping into dementia, just waiting to die. Despite the subject, Haneke succeeds in portraying the humiliation of old age and the physical deterioration of sickness in an explicit, yet almost whispered way.  He doesn’t aim to embellish the most degrading situations, but neither does he exploit them. Apart from a few scenes which I found totally useless, if not embarrassing (yeah, there’s a nightmare scene that could have been avoided), Haneke’s long takes are surgically precise as always. If you still have impressed in your memory *that* scene from Caché, expect a similar one, masterfully placed, that’ll stay with you for a long time.

Needless to say, Trintignant and Riva are just perfect and stay high above all the other (actually very few) actors, even Isabelle Huppert. Emmanuelle Riva is bound to act with just one side of her body, but she manages to portray the proudness and strenght of her character with just a flicker of her eyelid or the position, firm yet trembling, of her hand. Trintignant does a tremendous job, portraying a tired old man, dealing with a weight too heavy for his shoulders. The best, and more caustic, lines are reserved to him, but despite the cruelness those word are spoken in such an innocent and disenchanted way that they almost bites your throath.

Without sacrificing his style in favor of over simplistic solutions, Haneke, maybe for once, seems more human towards his characters. Even if there’s no cinematic subversion as before, there’s still the brutality of reality. It’s in the words, in the screams, in the blabbering, and obviosly, in all the silences: the sad ones, the angry ones, the horrified ones, the resigned ones. And then, there’s just silence.

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