- Emmanuelle Riva in Amour.
Amour won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May. On February 24, it will win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The French-language production, directed by Michael Haneke, is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and Best Original Screenplay. It is a strong contender in each of those categories as well.
The film is a stark look at devotion, love over the long term, and the end of life. Haneke slows down the pace of his movie to match the speed of his characters. The film is deliberate, with an unmoving camera catching many of the scenes. For the most part, the technique forces viewers to focus and fill in the visual blanks as people move in and out of the fixed camera's point of view. There were a few moments where I grew impatient with the speed - "Get on with it," I wanted to shout - but that merely reinforced the need for patience required when dealing with a mirrored view of the relationship between a caregiver and an individual in need.
Throughout your life you will serve as both a caregiver and an individual in need. As you near the end of your time here, you most likely will require a lot of assistance from others as the indignities of age increase.
Amour opens by showing the end of the story and then moves back in time to reveal how the events came to be. Georges and Anne, impeccably played by veteran actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and the aforementioned Riva, are a refined elderly Parisian couple. One morning at breakfast, Anne freezes for a brief period, rattling her husband of many years. Afterwards she does not remember the incident.
Matters get worse from that point. Anne suffers a stroke, and later another one. Georges cares for her, determined to keep her at home and respect her wish to not return to a hospital. People come and go, serving mostly as well-intentioned annoyances. A nurse gets hired to help at home. A second one is hired as Anne's needs increase. Life goes on, with Anne growing worse and Georges being pushed to his physical and mental limits as he tends to his love.
The kind of medication Emily (Rooney Mara) takes for her depression sometimes causes people to zone out and do weird things in their sleep. When Emily stabs her husband (Channing Tatum, barely in the movie) to death in the wee hours, she gets charged with murder and her shrink (Jude Law) gets dragged into a nightmare. Steven Soderbergh's film starts off as an ethical drama and turns into a thriller. The screenplay suffers from some gaping plot holes that I would love to detail here, but can't without spilling the beans. So I'll just say the film is entertaining fare, but structurally unsound.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at their best. See the 35mm print of the film and listen to guest speaker Cathy Whitock, author of Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction and the blog Cinema Style. Feb. 15, 7 p.m. @ The Toby, Indianapolis Museum of Art; $9 public, $5 IMA member.