Michael Heneke that is, for his new film Amour. Heneke has once again created something special for the cinema. His new French-language film follows Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and his wife Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), a couple in their eighties, who live together in their apartment in Paris. But before I tell you more about Georges and Anne, let me bring you up to date on who the Austrian filmaker Michael Heneke is.
Heneke began making feature films in 1989, though he had been making films for television for about fifteen years prior. I have always seen him as a maker of horror films. Even though his films are mainly labeled as drama or suspense, each of his films hold some horrific aspect to them. They might be something horrible that someone is doing in it ro a horrible situation he puts his characters into.
In his 1992 film, Benny’s Video, we follow a young boy named Benny who has brought home with him a captive bolt pistol, which is used in the slaughtering of pigs. In 1997 he gave us Funny Games, which he also remade in 2008 for the US, which deals with a home invasion that goes horribly wrong. 2009’s The White Ribbon allows us to join a small town in Germany in 1913, allowing us to view it’s violence and sexual deviance. So with a few other films in-between these, Heneke knows how to bring us in and hold us there with that tension until the release.
Amour opens up with an apartment being broken into by the local authorities and a medical crew. The looks on their faces tell us there is a foul stench in the air. As they notice one of the doors in the apartment has packing tape all around the edges, obviously to keep an odor from escaping the room, another man goes and opens windows for fresh air. The door is finally opened and we enter, discovering the corpse of Anna, covered with flowers on her bed. Fade to black. We come into the next scene with Georges and Anna attending a piano recital by a young man we find out later was a former piano student of Anne.
Heneke opens with the ending of the story, which makes you think about what will lead up to this tragedy. And he shows us, every event that leads up to the death. It is a tough ride he brings us on, as is his other films, but this one offers a more believable story. We are made aware of the love this couple has for each other. The long life they had spent which seems to be a successful one. George realizing that Anna is all he has once she has her stoke. Trying to understand the decisions that Georges has to make while caring for his wife. Georges realizing that he to is old and will soon be alone. Watching Anne deteriorate over time, both mentally and physically. All of these are right there in your face, and you cannot look away.
The acting is superb in every way imaginable. Both Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who is nominated for for the Best Actress Academy Award, make you believe that they have been with each other for sixty years or so. I had read that the fact that they filmed in a real apartment, they felt like they were connected as husband and wife. This they said allowed them to give the performance they did.
Heneke, who has nominations this year for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Foreign Film and Best Film for Academy Awards, never lets you down from start to finish. He has written an amazing story and brought together a wonderful crew to create this. He even uses his signature camera shots where he sets up the camera in a room where there are no people, yet you can hear them talking or doing something in another room for long periods of time. This can become dull and dry for some viewers, but it leaves so much to the audience member’s brain to invision what is happening where we cannot see.
I will warn you that the second half of the film had tears uncontrollably pouring down my face. This is not a happy or uplifting film by any means but a film about love and loss. I truly do hope that this year Heneke is awarded with the Oscars he has been nominated for. He is one of the great filmakers out there today that wants to bring you something that you might not normally get with other films and he is good at what he does.
Rated PG-13 127 min. Playing now at the Spectrum 8 Theaters