“In sickness and in health.” So goes the wedding vow. But the latter is far easier than the former. Yet, the fortunate married couple, who sticks it out, must inevitably face sickness leading to death. One must deal with the other dying. This is the subject that filmmaker Michael Haneke tackles in his acclaimed “Amour.”
Depressing, yes. Yet, “Amour” is strangely uplifting. The film is about the power of love as the only defense against the ultimate. It’s a place we’re all going to go. As you watch Georges and Anne Laurent (French acting legends Jean-Louis Trintignant Emmanuelle Riva) in the throes of it, you wonder how well you would do. In that way, “Amour” is a learning experience. You only hope you and your partner are as devoted as they are.
The film starts at the end, with a jolt as firemen bust into the Laurents’ stately apartment, airing the stagnant stench and discovering a decomposing Anne in bed, her head pillowed on flower petals.
We then jump back to when all was right with the elderly former music teachers. They attend a piano recital by their now-professional prize pupil, Alexandre Tharaud (as himself). The next morning at breakfast, Georges leaves the table to fill the salt shaker. On returning, he finds Anne has slipped in to a catatonic trance. Horrified, he goes away to dress, thinking, “Hospital.” In a moment, she is back to normal, or almost. Asking why he left the water on, she pours a cup of tea missing the cup. So begins the deadly spiral. Annie is a stroke victim. Her paralyzing disability has nowhere to go but down. Some help comes from one of two caregivers. None from their self-absorbed daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert). To her phony sincerity, Georges says, “Your concern is of no use to us.”
Haneke is tough. His “Funny Games” (both Austrian and American versions) is an icy view of elite pampered psychopathic killers. “The White Ribbon” taps into the essence of small town Nazism. “Amour” reveals what’s in store when real love is taken all the way to the end.
It is the chilling truth and a must see.