According to Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory, the paragon of love is “consummate” — complete, ideal, perfect. In this fashion of love, a couple delights in each other while defeating hardships with grace. Some might argue that aseptic concepts don’t translate in the ebb and flow of reality; they would be right. Except Sternberg never said consummate was truly sustainable or permanent.
Amour surpasses consummate and escalates the inquiry; venturing into end-stage by showing us the bits that come before “death do us part”.
When the movie begins, firemen break into a foul smelling apartment. A bedroom door, shut and sealed with layers of tape open to reveal the lifeless body of an old woman laid at rest. She was dressed in the finest, adorned with flowers. We are then introduced to main protagonists; ex-piano teachers Georges and Anne. Retired octogenarians with a long history of marriage who have settled comfortably into middle-class existence. The couple is shown attending a concert performed by one of their ex-students, and having a pleasant evening together—that was the last scene filmed outside their apartment.
On returning home, Georges discovers a tampered door lock. What appears to be a burglary attempt by strangers in the present, alludes to the change about to intrude at dawn.
At first consideration, Michael Haneke is an unlikely choice for stock sentimental genres. His blank, minimalistic, expressionless style of film-making; famous for detachment and cold neutrality would only aggravate the treatment of dry complex material. When one walks into a Haneken feature, expect neither theatrics nor emotions. Still shots, basic camera movements overlay-ed with monotonous ambient sounds only. But realistic mise en scène accentuates the intense deliberation demanded by his films (Caché, The White Ribbon). This is the principle behind those introspective pieces.
We are living in times of antipodal controversies. Pro-life campaigns against palliative medicine in the Liverpool Care Pathway saga is just one among the many that surround euthanasia debates. Rather than hanker over mission statements, Amour grazes the backdoor stance without overtly fixating on any specific message. And it would be perceptive to withhold from believing the central theme concerns itself with human rights because it doesn’t.
This is a story about a common man and woman, what their romance is capable of enduring, and their burning departure from happiness. Amour makes observations behind mysterious doors; allowing you to watch as two human beings gradually abate into claustrophobic indignity. Tender, humane, poetic and heart rending.
LANGUAGE IN FRENCH