Review: Amour

Leeds International Film FestivalMortality has never seemed so close, and so terrifying in its implications, than in Michael Haneke’s portrait of love, loyalty, dignity and death.

Amour chronicles the final weeks of an elderly couple’s life together after she is suddenly stricken. As their story winds to its conclusion, Haneke focuses on the choices made – and the repercussions thereafter – as life’s travails become ever more oppressive.

Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant are Anne and Georges, two octogenarian music teachers living in genteel poverty in their spacious apartment.

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After returning from a concert by a former pupil, Anne suffers a stroke. As her condition worsens, Georges’ ability to cope is sorely tested.

Haneke boldly begins his tale with a sequence that sets up the remainder of the film. In typically powerful and provocative fashion, he dares to lay bare the decisions carers make while dealing in unflinching fashion with pain, humiliation and decay.

Riva and Trintignant give heart-rending performances – she as the once proud, vibrant and elegant woman transformed into a bed-ridden patient, he as the fiercely loyal partner determined to preserve his wife’s dignity to the end.

Amour is not an easy film, dealing as it does with the daily struggle for humanity. Isabelle Huppert drifts in and out of the plot as the couple’s daughter, equally wanting to help and being rejected by her father. If there is an outsider’s voice of concern, she provides it. Bleak, poignant and always hinting at the dark night to come, Amour flows with beauty, affection and mounting horror. It is the closing night film at the Leeds International Film Festival on Sunday, Nov 18.