After months of anticipation we bundled ourselves up on a blustery December day to rush to see what has been hailed by the critics as masterpiece about life, death and everything in between (Manohla Dargis, NYT-12/19/12), Michael Heneke’s Amour.
Unfortunately, what we saw was a sterile, confused meditation on the gates of hell known to the director as illness and old age. For over two hours we entered Heneke’s Inferno. With Cartesian precision he shows us a picture of what old age and illness looks like to two very empty characters. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), both former musicians, are initially introduced to us as productive mentors and teachers of music. Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert), also a musician, is presented as the outsider who is continuously intruding upon their insularity.
Anne is afflicted by a sudden stroke at the breakfast table. This leads to a paralysis of her right side and the beginning of the end for her. Her husband, Georges becomes her main caretaker. Once he takes over the film is dominated by Georges’ subjectivity which we believe mirrors the directors’.
Our disappointment and frustration with this critically acclaimed film is as follows: This is a case of the emperor’s new clothes. The critics have blinded themselves in their rush to embrace this clichéd stereotyped hallucination of illness collapsed into old age.
Both of us are well over sixty and have loved and lost many loved ones in our lives through hideous illnesses and disabilities including AIDS, Leukemia, Lung Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Heart Attacks. In our collective experience we have never come across anything as bleak, hopeless and claustrophobic as this so called masterpiece.
The film conflates illness and old age as necessary partners on the inevitable journey to the abyss. Where is the amour in this film? Does it rest in Geroges killing of Anne? Or in his exclusion of their daughter from communicating with her mother at any point in the film? Or is it in the lack of friends? Or in knowing Anne’s subjectivity?
We question if there ever was love in their lives? When Anne goes through her photograph album she says, I had a life. She states this with no emotion. The only time she displays emotion is when she says about halfway through the film, I want to die. This only happens when Georges decides it’s the time to do so.
We hope that this film is not the last word on ageing or death! When one of our mother’s was on the edge of death, she was in and out of consciousness. She was taken to a local hospital and put on a gurney while waiting for a room. She suddenly opened her eyes and looked around and said, this is one hell of a lousy hotel! Would there had been such humor and love of life in the final moments of this movie.!