Amour (“My Conflicted Take On This Brilliant But Horrifying Movie”)

20 Jan


Synopsis: “Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple’s bond of love is severely tested.” (Rated PG-13; 2 hours 7 minutes)

There was a great movie starring Judi Dench called Iris, where she played the true story of an older woman slowly fading from Alzheimer’s. I remember seeing this movie and beyond realizing her performance was a tour de force, I was absolutely depressed watching the movie, and cried for much of it. When I think about that movie to this very day, I still feel the emotional ties of sadness of not only a human being fading away, but the emotional lynch pin of that movie was her husband (played by Jim Broadbent who was  himself fantastic) having to cope with watching his wife fade piece by piece in front of his eyes. 

Amour tackles much of that same concept, but in a less polished, less typical, and much rawer way. I’m not trying to knock Iris one bit by the way, it was a fantastic movie that continues to haunt me years later, but it certainly still felt like a movie, just as you would expect. The specialness of Amour is how real it all feels. You actually feel like you’re watching moments from the lives of two elderly people who have lived a full life together, and now start experiencing it all being ripped from the seams. It is beyond heartbreaking, as every audience member must feel like I did, identifying their own grandparents, or parents, or someone else in their lives who this absolutely could be. People who love each other for generations, and one dreaded day, become sick, and then sicker, until all you can see is their disease.
Not one moment in the movie is over-dramatized, not one line in the movie hits you over the head, no musical score plays to heighten your sympathies (something it has in common with the excellent movie I reviewed yesterday, Zero Dark Thirty).

At first I thought I was finding one fatal flaw, many scenes seemed to not only move slowly, but went on well past when most scenes would end. If the doting and care-taking husband would start doing the dishes, the scene would not end when he picked up the first dish as with a normal movie, but you would watch him actually wash the first 6. When he would be called from the other room by a noise his increasingly helpless wife would make, you wouldn’t cut to the next shot of him arriving at her, but would watch him move his rather slow body all the way there, never moving the camera away from him, experiencing every step he takes. The more scenes I would watch of this slowly paced crawl the more I realized that that was an incredible film-making choice, basically putting you right there in the moment, as if it was you taking care of her. Because truly life moves in real time, and movies don’t, but this movie took many individual scenes and made them feel all the more real by the talented director Michael Haneke’s work. I not only teared up and cried throughout this movie, but I felt sick to my stomach as if I was experiencing an actual loss.

How can I possibly recommend this movie to someone who is too sensitive a person? I can tell you that although Adi thinks the movie was fantastic, and amazing, and deserves every award it was nominated for, she absolutely wishes she never saw it because it made her feel sick inside in a way that stuck with her for the rest of the night. I literally had to apologize for taking her to see the movie because of the powerful effect it had on her.

I’m not saying that most people can’t handle this, I think it would be hit or miss depending on whatever else is going on in one’s life, the health of their parents, their grandparents, their loved ones, but it certainly is a movie capable of striking the loudest cord, and that’s something that’s quite a revelation when you realize how many movies we see all the time that involve death of likable characters but never affect you in an emotional way like this. I realized during the movie that it’s a damn good thing that as a nurse I don’t get to know my patients as well as you get to know these two characters, because I was watching her taken care of the same way I’ve cared for countless elderly patients thus-far; obviously I am able to take care of patients such as the character in this movie without it making me burst out crying, but this movie throws you in the deep end and I challenge you not to be affected.

Clearly the performances were perfect. Absolutely perfect. Emmanuelle Riva not only was nominated for her performance but may as well have actually been a dying woman and I wouldn’t have known the difference. Jean-Louis Trintignant was phenomenal himself as her husband who had become her caretaker.

An amazing movie that I will be very careful as to who I recommend it to!

The movie was even greater than the phenomenal Iris that I discussed above, only because I literally never felt like I was watching a movie – a very rare feat. The movie was less good than…why bother splitting hairs, it was painful but just about perfect.

Quality Rating: A+

Boaz Rating: A+ (For the emotional impact and connection I had to it. I’m tempted to punish it with an F for how it’s going to make me feel for the next few weeks!)


8 Responses to “Amour (“My Conflicted Take On This Brilliant But Horrifying Movie”)”

  1. zralston January 21, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Well done. You described and explained what made this movie so great better than I did. Basically all I could say, like you commented on my blog, was Wow.


    • boazconstrictor January 21, 2013 at 9:02 am #

      That’s funny, I think you did a better job on your end since someone reading mine may not have a clue what the movie is about, I think we should combine our two posts into one more effective one! 🙂


  2. garymartingamble April 11, 2013 at 12:30 am #

    I’ve read nothing but greatness about this film, and that was a really well written piece man . I don’t know if I can handle this though its looks incredibly sad, but I d say its one hell of a film.


    • boazconstrictor April 11, 2013 at 12:31 am #

      Yes on all accounts, both amazing and horribly difficult to watch at the same time!


  3. movierob April 14, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    I really enjoyed this too. The only “fault” (IMHO) is that it’s in French. I seem to have trouble completely loving any movie where I cant understand the whole thing and need to read subtitles. Guess it reminds me of the old joke:

    what do you call someone who speaks 3 languages – Trilingual
    what do you call someone who speaks 2 languages – bilingual
    what do you call someone who speaks 1 language – American 🙂

    I DO speak 2 languages (English and Hebrew) but I still fall into that category.

    You are so right about the reasoning why they didn’t use many cuts, It really made me feel as if I was in the room with him washing the dishes and then scuttling to the bedroom.

    I was rooting for Riva to win best actress over Jennifer Laurence because she made me believe she was dying. I didn’t care that JL was a schizo nympho widow. few years ago, before th academy changed that would never have happened. Was also cool that Oscar night was Riva’s b-day. That woulda been a very amazing birthday gift.

    Was very difficult watching and I don’t think I’d rush to watch it too quickly. In that way it reminded me of Compliance, which was amazing, but sooo disturbing


    • boazconstrictor April 14, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Very excited to see Compliance, I missed it in theaters but just recorded it actually.
      I understand what you’re saying about your limitation you feel with something needing to be read in subtitles, I’m sure there’s always inevitably something lost in translation, and it creates an extra barrier to you as the viewer, but it doesn’t affect me enough to notice overall.
      I did really like Silver Linings Playbook as well as Jennifer Lawrence, but if I had to say which was the greater performance I agree it was Riva.



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