There are two things that are certain in life. One is that death will come for every one of us, in this case for Georges and Anne, an elderly couple. The other is that every film Michael Haneke makes will have a fair shot at the Cannes Palme d'Or. Amour, Haneke's much-garlanded latest, is set almost entirely within a well-appointed Paris apartment, amid the cathedral hush that is the director's preferred working condition. Anne is played by 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour), and Georges by 81-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant (My Night at Maud's, The Conformist); Georges ministers to his diminishing wife through her slow decline, his fierce will for her to live pitted against her increasing will to die. Haneke elides the moments of crisis, focusing instead on details of daily caretaking, the process by which a home slowly becomes a hospice. Trintignant is at his most touching as a man vainly trying to decipher his wife's blurred speech so as not to let go of the thread of their lifelong rapport. As ever, Haneke shoots in a style that is reserved and restrained—in a word, cold. In applying an unflinching style to an inevitable process, Amour has a certain perfection to it, but what Haneke expresses thereby is so meager as to make it a single-minded, barren perfection. Haneke remains infallible—but so what? A movie in which incident is as spare as it is in Amour can certainly be great; a movie in which ideas and feelings are so sparse cannot.
Michael HanekeJean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Michael HanekeMichael HanekeMargaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael KatzSony Pictures Classics