The Austrian director Michael Haneke has been for many years with horrors, whether the home-invasion terror of “Funny Games” or the psychological horror of “Cache (Hidden).” His latest film, “Amour,” is about a horror of a completely different, but equally disturbing kind.
The winner of the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and a nominee for several Oscars, including Best Picture, “Amour” is amazingly well-acted and just devastating in its impact. It’s not a pleasant watch by any means, but it’s very, very true. If you’ve ever had an older relative slip away from a long, slow illness, “Amour” will feel very familiar.
The film, which in French with English subtitles, stars Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva as Georges and Anne, a long-married couple in their 80s, retired music teachers who share a spacious Paris apartment that is the site of virtually all of the film’s action.
Early on in the film, Anne suffers what looks like a stroke, and the rest of its running time chronicles, with striking intimacy, her long, slow decline and Georges’ attempts to take care of her. They’re visited by their daughter (Isabelle Huppert), a former student and various health aides, but for the most part this is a two-character piece.
And what two characters they are. Riva, who at 85 became the oldest person ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, is absolutely heartbreaking in the role, throwing herself into it in every way and even subjecting herself to various physical humiliations. Trintignant is pretty great as well, playing a character slowly becoming unwound as his wife declines.
Throughout, the story is magnificently told by writer/director Haneke. There’s even an ambiguous final scene that reminded me a whole lot of the director’s “Cache.”
Once again, “Amour” isn’t a fun time out at the movies, and I kind of doubt I’ll ever see it again. But it’s an amazingly act, absolutely heartbreaking film.