Foreign film aficionados, this one’s for you. And a head’s up in case you are wary of the fact that it happens to be directed by Austrian gore-master Michael Haneke: there is nothing in this movie that will offend the delicate sensibilities of the squeamish. Nothing bloody, that is.
Amour, which has been winning many prizes of late since it was first screened earlier this year (including the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival), is something that almost everyone should want to see, even if they think they won’t enjoy the subject matter. A love story between elderly people? A geriatric romance? A 120 minutes PSA on the virtues of adult diapers? With subtitles??
Well, all of this true, and it still makes for an impressive movie. Starring the two indie titans of French cinema in the lead roles (Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignan), the story begins when the couple comes home to find their house has been robbed. The next morning, a stroke affects one of them, setting off a chain of health problems that serve to remind them that Life is, at last, coming to an end. It is a fate we will all share, with Time being our eternal tormentor, the movie says.
Unlike the treacly tripe that was The Notebook (and frankly anything else ever based on Nicholas Sparks’s remedial and misogynistic writing), Amour struggles with the big question of Love: its ability to sustain Life and to survive Death. Nothing in the movie is overly bombastic or melodramatic. The overtures on the tragedies of aging are subtle. Life is painted in small and measured strokes, all of which makes the movie eminently watchable.
For everyone who will ever age (or knows someone who has aged), this movie is a reminder that the sum total of Life is not about its definitive moments, but its unremarkable and even mundane events that create what we know to be the pattern of loving ourselves and the others in our lives.