Amour is as unsentimental as it’s heartbreaking
For a moment I was playing with the idea to start this post suggesting that there should be an age limit for Amour. 40 sounded just about right.
People under the age of 40 should, if not be denied entrance, at least get a warning that this film might not be their cup of tea.
But then I changed my mind and felt ashamed at even considering this. I hate ageism as much as I hate sexism, if not more. Sexism is questioned and fought these days, but very few people will raise their voices against prejudices, stereotypes and discrimination against people of a certain age. It’s accepted, both ways. People are equally often dismissed for being “too young to get it” as “too old to understand”. And both ways are stupid.
I think it’s perfectly possible for someone who is in their 30s or even 20s to embrace Amour, depending on what life experiences and what view on life you have. It’s not about your physical age as much as about your mental.
Have you ever been close to illness and death? I mean, really close, so close that you grew ten years older over a night? Have you ever seen someone near you fading away from you physically and mentally, standing helplessly at their side, unable to do anything more than just being there, not running away in fear? Do you think about your own upcoming death and how your life will look when you’re in your 80s and you’ll hear the countdown watch louder and clearer day by day? If your answers are “yes”, chances are that you’re going love Amour. It’s not about a number in your birthday license. 21, 41 or 61 years old – it’s about how you can relate to the fact that we all will get old and die one day.
In Michael Haneke’s latest movie we get to follow the last phase in the life of an elderly couple. It’s a time of inevitable loss of life and of each other, but also a time when the love they feel for each other takes new expressions. When Georges holds Anne tight to his body, helping her moving from the toilet to the wheelchair, they’re closer to each other than if we’d seen them having sex when their bodies still were young.
All those years have melted them together, and I’m looking in vain for words how to describe it, but all I can come up with are a few lines from Hedwig and the Angry Inch:
Last time I saw you/We had just split in two/You were looking at me/I was looking at you
You had a way so familiar/But I could not recognize/Cause you had blood on your face/I had blood in my eyes
But I could swear by your expression/That the pain down in your soul/Was the same as the one down in mine
That’s the pain/ It cuts a straight line/Down through the heart/We called it love”
I guess it looks like a long jump from Hedwig to Amour, but what I think what those films have in common is that neither of the shies away from tough existential questions, from the nature of love and from the deep pain that comes with that you’re a living human being.
A lot of tears
I cried my way throughout the entire film. It wasn’t a loud, out-of-control wailing, but a silent, sweet never-ceasing, cleansing drizzle. It was tears over people that were dear to me who have died or who are waiting to die, in a situation resembling to the movie. It was tears over the fact in the end, inevitably, we all die alone.
It would be wrong to jump into the conclusion from this that Haneke has turned soft and sentimental at old age, manipulating and pulling the heartstrings of the audience using cheap tricks. He doesn’t. The film is very quiet, never using any big gestures to convey a certain point. I don’t know if Haneke even has a message. Maybe all he wants is to show how some of us will end our lives. If we’re lucky, that will say. Not everyone ends up having a relationship like Georges’ and Anne’s.
Is it a tough watch, like some of the previous Haneke movies? Well, sort of. It’s not gory by any means. But it shows us our fragility and mortality in a very upfront way, sides of our existence that we usually prefer to not look too deeply in it, using drugs and whatever other distraction we can think of to escape from it.
Amour forces us to look at it realistically and ask those uncomfortable questions. What will happen to me when I’m in my 80s? Will I lie in diapers in a bed, repeatedly calling out: “pain, pain, pain” without noticing what’s happening around me? Will there be someone there who will take care of me? How will I die? Will I have to watch the ones I love dying away from me? Will I be ready to deal with it, standing by their sides until the very end, not just as a beautiful idea, but also in reality?
Watch this film if you’ve come to a point in your life where you’re ready to handle it. If not – just leave it for the time being. Enjoy your innocence and ignorance and the life you lead here and now and leave the sorrows for tomorrow. There’s no shame in that.
For me Amour was one of my strongest movie experiences this year.
Amour (Michael Haneke, FR/AU 2012) My rating: 5/5