A REVIEW OF THE FILM ‘AMOUR’
“What is man-woman love? How intense can it get hypothetically at least? Can it result in one trying to keep his intense passion for the other by even seeking to freeze it—his image of what that love had been-through some unacceptable means?”
This is the theme that inspired the Austrian Michael Haneke to direct this 127 minute-long French film titled AMOUR (French term for Intense passionate love), on purpose. Haneke is already famous at an international level for some other films that he films that he produced viz. Cache, Funny Balloons and The White Ribbon.
What distinguishes his film creations is that they are dark and unspeakably disturbing to us. The basic story board is but a vehicle for him to convey the message that he wishes us to understand through it. And that strips us of our habitual hypocrisies, drags us out of our own cozy comfort zones and puts a mirror in front of us!
The film carries you and me far beyond the simple lives of George and Anne, erstwhile music teachers, into unknown territory where we begin to question our own selves how far we have been successful in our own passionate relationships and how sincere and insincere we have been too at the same time!
Not at all surprising it is then that this film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2012, and the Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film along with dozens of others.
As we all are aware ,though not conscious of it except perhaps at fleeting moments of exigency, the intensity of our love gets tested in a crucible of experience NOT when the sailing is smooth with favorable trade winds smoothening our journey in life in all imaginable ways, but ONLY when tragedy strikes one of us partners within a household! Ageing process is precisely such a crucible with unimagined crises visiting us individually.
George and Anne, both in their 80’s, are superannuated Music Instructors and ageing gracefully when we see them first, at the opening of the film. They have one daughter who is staying at a distance and visits them on occasions. She is encountering a permanent marital separation threat at the time we see her.
Both live their music-based lives in a pleasant manner with total agreement and no altercation of the least kind. Whether it’s real youthful love that they feel for one another or if it’s but a put- on display as social convention (The term AMOUR also means sudden short lived sexual passion without any attachment of a lasting kind) demands is a mystery to us at this stage.
They have their well-deserved respect from all fronts, in which they bask too.
Crisis strikes the couple one sunny morning when they are having breakfast together in their apartment. Anne suffers from an unforeseen stroke, after a few moments of bewilderment, disorientation and all round confusion. George doesn’t understand the phenomenon fully, and takes no remedial action at all, as a result of which she sinks into a total paralytic—to be precise a hemiplegic– and a dependent within days. She entreats him in a slurred fashion NOT to admit her to any hospital but to take care of her right at their home. Honoring her request and wish, George undertakes to take care of her.
A young nursing assistant is appointed by him to assist in his endeavors but the girl is soon dismissed for, as George sees it, her incompetence and roughness. He finds it himself unable to endure the mechanical way she assists the hemiplegic since he has all along been a gentle hubby to Anne!
But then he is a male and so his daughter suggests that he sell his home and taker Anne along to her home. But George wouldn’t have any of this because Anne has already told him she likes it better in this house on account of her familiarity with the ambiance.
He goes on with the rendering of his services to his now-totally-helpless wife, who displays irrational obsessions, produces weird unintelligible sounds, and strange behavioral oddities. He strains his utmost to make it all endurable to her—even shooing off a turtle dove that flew into his home thru a window– knowing her true condition; he knows she is sinking too. One day he tries to offer her a tumbler of water which she refuses to take in and he is forced to give her a slap.
Unable to take it any longer—I mean the sheer mental strain of it all- George takes a pillow on impulse one day and smothers her-poor creature – to death with no protesting gesture on her part. Lovely young Anne it is that remains alive in the depths of his heart and he wouldn’t like to recall this pale, severely deformed body of Anne when he turns nostalgic; this is his view.
He adorns the corpse with flowers and tapes shut all the doors and windows for all time to come, before he imagines Anne to be coming to invite him for a walk outdoors. Taking up his suitcase and going out once and for all time to come.
The film closes with Ava the daughter roaming through the now-deserted and disused house.
The camera movement in this film is especially noteworthy; it never goes out of the home once Anne falls a victim to hemiplegia. Is this because the director wishes to suggest that even that camera shares in the intense forlornness of the helpless couple? Human nature it is to escape from such an agoraphobic scenario but the camera in this film is too empathetic and helpless like Anne! Poor George is seen going out at times after he gets brain fatigued through constant vigil of Anne but you and I cannot, even if we would love to, go out!
No bells and whistles here for the camera at all-no zoom images, no close ups, and no sentimentality! Movements are severely predictable and limited to the rooms and the bed and the toilet. Only mid-shots. The camera is motionless—as if voluntarily frozen in time.
Zero dialogue, and zero suggestion of any escape from this bitter reality.
The film’s opening scene itself-two police men entering a closed and locked apartment and looking for some living soul within is itself quite arresting and dramatic in the extreme.
Comparable to the Malayalam film titled Elippathaayam (=Mousetrap) directed by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, in part and in some images, both Anne and George are trapped by Time in their own pet apartment. But only in part.
This Haneke film is raw human helplessness and fragility served, with all its associated mess, blood and offal, on a platter even without a trace of ‘sauce’ or ‘ketchup’ aka humor, a lullaby or a loving chat!
Emmanuella Riva, the late female protagonist (She died at 82 in January this year!) who presents Anne in this film is an exceptionally dedicated cine artiste as we know from her superior performance level in films e.g. Hiroshima mon Amor (1959).She has won numerous awards for her performance in this film too. Her character comes to her with many unforeseen challenges in this film-it’s indeed almost impossibly strenuous to portray a hemiplegic in a film.
I shall speak of George in another blog! This itself takes a toll on my emotional endurance!