Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I don't have a lot that I'm dying to say about Amour, but this: I personally know nobody my age who has seen it, let alone heard of it (despite the fact that it was one of the most honored foreign films in America last year), and I can't imagine anyone being interested in seeing it if I did tell them what it was (again, in spite of its many accolades and critical acclaim). Roger Ebert has what I think is the best line about the movie when he said "old age isn't for sissies, and neither is this film." Its subject is painful, its storytelling slow and concise, and it runs for over two hours. The only reason casual viewers tend to go for material like this is when they feel the need for a good weeper. This is certainly not that film. Haneke is resolute in his intention, which is to not compromise truth with feeling. I imagine he would say the feeling is something that naturally comes along with a difficult story such as this, so why should one try to force it into the narrative at the expense of losing realism?
So what I wonder is whether I could actually get someone to see this who one: is not a Michael Haneke fan, and two: doesn't generally seek out films about the degeneration of the aging (never mind the overarching theme about love-that won't convince an average viewer). As objectively fantastic as the film is, I'm personally not eager to see it again. And when there are many movies to choose from, I generally will not pick one with this topic. And yet there was still something that wowed me about it. It has nothing to do with the film's subject, but rather how much this felt like real cinema. Haneke's hand in this tiny movie set in a single apartment with only two central characters is astonishingly present. He makes it a beautiful movie to behold.
This is largely due to the setting: Haneke built an apartment that was designed after one in which his relatives lived and which he visited often as a child. When dealing with such a small amount of room, he wanted space that he was familiar with. The apartment almost becomes another character. We noticed its intricate design, its lovely furnishings, its colors, what it has, what it does not have. The bedroom, where the film's most challenging scenes occur, is a disturbing location, and thus when Haneke shifts to the lovely, book-laden living room, we feel we're entering a place of solace. Might I go so far as to say that the living room is what makes the film so watchable? Haneke's simple, careful framing, the wonderfully rich faces of his actors, the impeccable color design and precise, though not necessarily orderly, placement of items gives the film a sense of peace, and order amidst the chaos of its frightening subject. The picture above hopefully serves as an example of what I mean by this. I do not wish to say that I cannot handle the film's difficult subject matter, but rather to say that there is more to the film than its subject matter.