The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Amour is as unsentimental as it’s heartbreaking

with 23 comments

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.

Melted together
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

Written by Jessica

December 11, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Amour

23 Responses

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  1. From what I’ve heard of this film already Jessica, I think it’s going to be one of my personal highlights of the year. I’m a mere 34 years of ages so your opening statement had me worried for a bit there 😉 That being said, I’ve had a few brushes with mortal coils being shuffled off in my time already ad lost many close people. I think I’m ready to identify with this. Can’t wait to see it.
    Excellent post as always.

    Mark Walker

    December 11, 2012 at 9:11 am

    • Thanks Mark! I think you’ve got the life experiences it takes to appreciate this kind of film. I’m looking forward to see your take on it.


      December 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  2. I am a great admirer of Haeneke- I own both versions of Funny Games, Cache, The White Ribbon & Benny’s Video…I will see this movie, but unfortunately, probably not until next year. An uncomprimising autuer, and a very important filmmaker. I can’t wait to see this!

    Karl Kaefer

    December 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    • It’s a little different to The Wite Ribbon and Benny’s Video, which are the only one’s I’ve seen by Haneke so far, in the sense that it’s a bit brighter. While the topic is dark and sad, it still a movie about love and a relationship that lasts through difficulties. This said, I’m pretty sure you’re going to like it.


      December 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm

  3. I am beyond excited to see this. I’m a young one, but as you said: it’s about mental age, not physical. I love honest and real films, and this looks like a top pick.


    December 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    • I definitely think it is a top pick, a good candidate for the upcoming award season. The acting performances are amazing. And the setting is so perfect. This is exactly the kind of living that many elderly people have. Every little detail in how their kitchen looks, what they have for dinner, how they dress etc is spot on.


      December 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm

  4. It’s strange because I am very familiar with the events and circumstances depicted in this film, having lost a few close relatives in a similar way, one very recently, and having dated a palliative care nurse for two years; and watching the film, I was at times reminded of things I’ve seen, this is really how many lives end.
    Yet, I was never quite able to fully connect with the characters here, and after awhile I stopped caring. I’m usually open to Haneke’s ‘let’s make you feel miserable’ game, but this one to me felt more tedious than emotional. It’s still a very, I don’t know if impressive is the right word, but at the very least, an accomplished piece of filmmaking on every level, especially the acting. I can totally see why everyone rates it so highly, and I think it’s one that will definitely get better as time passes. Maybe I’ll appreciate it more in a few years time.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    December 11, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    • You know, sometimes it’s just a bad day to watch a certain movie. Bad timing. It’s like with food. Some days you just don’t feel like having a certain dish. And yet, a few days later, the same dish is exactly what you want that time.
      The chemistry wasn’t there when you and Amour first met. But it might very well arrive next time you see it.


      December 11, 2012 at 9:51 pm

  5. Ah, what a fantastic review of what I consider to be a flawless film. I like your story about your brief bout with ageism; I’ll often have unfair, preconceived notions about a film and then go, “Okay, wait, let’s reserve judgement until I see the damn thing.”

    Anyhow, I’m really glad you enjoyed (is that even the right word?) Amour as much as I did. It is so honest and unflinching and just so… Haneke. Definitely among my favorite of the year.

    Alex Withrow

    December 11, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! It means a lot to me.

      I actually think “enjoyed” is a fair way to describe it. Because you know… we need a good sob once in a while to remain sane. It’s as if I reconnect with my soul when I watch movies like this one.


      December 11, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      • Oh, that is just the PERFECT way to describe it. A good sob never hurt anyone. Couldn’t agree more.

        Alex Withrowa

        December 13, 2012 at 10:36 pm

  6. Haivng loved ‘The White Ribbon’ and considering that the film addresses an subject that is probably my greatest fear (losing my memories and my intellect without actually dying), I can’t wait to see it … on January 25 😦


    December 12, 2012 at 6:05 am

    • I figured it wasn’t widely available from the very little discussion there has been about it, apart from the Cannes attention. I don’t think it will disappoint you when you finally get to see it though.


      December 12, 2012 at 7:37 am

  7. Great review Jessica! Being a sprightly 26 years old, I’m interested to see how I view this one. Also, having a very near death experience a few years ago, I wonder if that will affect my thoughts on it. Very interested in this, really hope I get to see it soon.

    Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    December 12, 2012 at 10:23 am

    • Thanks! I hope you’ll get to see it. Your age shouldn’t be a problem as long as you’re open and familliar with the darker sides of life.


      December 12, 2012 at 10:57 pm

  8. What a wonderful post! I am even more excited to see this movie now that I’ve read your description of the relationship at its center. I agree that we experience films differently at various stages of life, though it isn’t necessarily based on a chronological number.


    December 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    • Thank you Stephanie! I think this film is extraordinary and one of the movies of 2012 that I really would recommend people to check out.


      December 12, 2012 at 11:03 pm

  9. Great post, Jess. Haven’t seen this yet but from what I’ve been reading, this 22-year old guy will like it.


    December 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm

  10. […] 2. Amour Once again Michael Haneke has made a film about things we’d rather not think about. This is probably how many of us will end our days. We’ll either “loose it” as our bodies stops functioning or – which is worse – watch someone close to us go through this without being able to help. But our denial doesn’t make this go away. It’s as if the director gently takes our hand as we make this walk into darkness, showing us what lifelong love means. It made me cry, but ultimately I think it’s more uplifting than depressing. […]

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  12. I just saw this film and wanted to comment after posting my own review. This is the 5th Haneke film I’ve seen so I am pretty familiar with his work. It’s typical in that it has extremely long static takes and no score (except for the occasional piano playing). However it actually approximates feelings of warmth and sentiment, albeit from his slightly skewed perspective. With that said, it is his most accessible.

    Amour is an incredibly sad film, yet I never felt tears. It’s so touching, yet it’s a very unsentimental portrait. I couldn’t say I got pleasure from watching this. However I do feel glad that I saw it.

    Mark Hobin

    January 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    • I’ve seen Benny’s Video before, which I thought was a little too much on your nose with the message, and The White Ribbon, which I liked a lot. This film is definitely a lot warmer. It’s sad and dark but also a beautiful statement about the nature of aging love. I think most people react pretty strongly to it. Once I was at the theatre to watch a screening of another film right after Amour and I watched the faces when they came out from it. They looked very affected, even stunned.


      January 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

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