Reactions to Haneke’s Amour

imagesThe staff at The Clay movie theatre in San Francisco say that people are walking out of Michael Haneke’s critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated film, Amour, in droves.

Amour is not a horror movie, and yet it’s perhaps tougher to watch than any slasher flick because it cuts so close to the bone. It’s impossible to watch this story about a educated, elderly French couple’s journey towards the end of life complete with strokes, rude nurses and adult diapers without thinking, “this is going to happen to me or to someone very close to me someday.” Not “this could happen,” but, “this, very likely, will happen.”

My friend Sarah who attended the film with me last night cried silently throughout. She wouldn’t accept a ride home. She needed the cold night air and a walk. I understood and would have enjoyed a stroll myself to decompress after Haneke’s relentlessly glum portrayal of the inevitable process of human putrefaction. It’s two hours of slowly and painfully watching two people shuffle off this mortal coil.

Strangely though, my reaction was quite different to Sarah’s. I left the theatre feeling discombobulated but not depressed. For one thing, the scenario is unavoidable. So I found Haneke’s movie to be rather life-affirming. It made me tell myself to make the most of each day. For another, the troubles facing the couple Georges and Anne in the movie and their daughter Eva (sensitively portrayed by the formidable actors Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert respectively) make the challenges I face each day in my life seem utterly trivial. In other words, the film provides an excellent source of perspective on one’s own existence.

One last point of reflection about this movie, which I still can’t decide if I liked or not: It reminds me of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame , only with less subtlety. The wheelchair-bound Anne and her stiff-legged but mobile husband Georges could be reincarnations of Hamm and Clov, only with a great deal more affection between them. Haneke’s characters share the interdependence of Beckett’s. Plus the bleakness of their lives is edged with as much sweetness as it is with sleep.


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  1. Eric Berman says

    It’s life–it will happen sooner or later to us all–just without the film crew out of the frame. The decline can be gradual: the loss of control of our bodies, memories just out of reach, the death of loved-ones–or it can happen all at once like it did just recently to my 99 year old mother–the stuffing went out of her and in a week she went from nosy little old lady to a pathetic rag-doll gasping for air in a hospice.
    But it is not sad
    Your problem is that it is all too far off for you–the indignity, the suffering. What is worst about old age is not the shuffling off of this mortal coil, but the shuffling off of perfectly lucid elders to insignificance. No one will escape. But with age comes a waning of the senses, a gentle decline–if you are lucky–so that death can take its time, but it is not unwelcome, and the end, as the idea goes, is just the closing of a parenthesis.
    Fear not. When we cry at this movie we are crying for our shared human condition.
    Eric Berman

    • Chloe Veltman says

      I absolutely agree with you, Eric. And I am not too young to appreciate what the film means. I watched my grandparents go through this process in a remarkably similar way to the way in which it is played out in Haneke’s movie…

  2. says

    A good, direct review – thanks, Chloe.

    I discovered it because I only saw Amour yesterday and wanted to know if anyone saw as much of Beckett in it as I did. I’m glad someone else did.