November 03, 2013

Movie Review: Amour

No one dreams about death. But secretly, we all do. We hope we are visited by him in the middle of the night, that we barely notice, and that we trouble no one. Wishes however, aren't granted.

Amour, a French movie by Austrian film-maker Michael Haneke, is a movie about love and death. More specifically, the progress to death.

The movie starts with firemen breaking into an apartment in Paris. It carries the clear stench of death, and they find a room taped up from the outside. No one has seen the inhabitants in a while, and in the room they find an old woman on the bed, with flowers laid out carefully around her head.

It is clear that everything else from this point onward, would lead up to this moment in the movie. We start at a concert hall, with music, an appreciative audience, and no other details until an old couple, Anne and Georges return to their apartment from the concert. At breakfast the next morning, Anne stares off into space for a while, and does not respond even when Georges places a damp cloth on her. He goes inside to get ready to call for help, when he hears the tap he had absently left running, being turned off. When he gets back into the kitchen, Anne says he forgot to turn the tap off, and doesn't remember that she was in a state. But when she can barely lift the teapot to pour herself some tea, they figure out Georges was right to be worried. She had a stroke, and the 'safe' surgery to mend her, was one of the 5% that do go wrong, as Georges tells his daughter Eva.

The movie reveals information only as and when required. We find out Anne and Georges are piano teachers only when Alexandre, a former student, visits them and thanks them for everything they have done. But when he sees Anne's condition and offers his sympathies, you can tell Anne is a very proud woman and offended to be at the receiving end of any sympathy. She doesn't listen to the CD Alexandre sends them, which they were so keen on buying the morning after the concert, just before the stroke.

Anne is in a wheelchair, and she makes Georges promise never to send her back to the hospital. He does. Being a frail man himself, it is touching to see how well he takes care of her. He tells her stories from his youth, and she wonders why he has never told them to her before. The camera doesn't shy away from showing you the indignities of being dependent on someone. To take a shower, to go to the loo, and her brave face when Anne clearly doesn't like being dependent on anyone. She looks almost thrilled when she figures out how to operate the wheelchair on her own.

There are times when she gives Georges hints. One day, she tells him she has had a good life. What do you mean, he asks her. And on another, while he is having breakfast, she requests that he bring her the photo albums. Flipping through them, while Georges is eating, she remarks, what a full life.

Just when it looks like she is getting better, getting so far as trying to walk with Georges help, she suffers from another stroke. This time, it is much worse. She can barely get words out, which upsets her daughter Eva so much. Eva comes with Geoff, who she lives with in the US, the wayward boyfriend she mentions to Georges when we first see her. She tries telling Georges that he cannot take care of Anne by himself. He reiterates his promise and says he has hired help, two part-time nurses.

One of the nurses is abusive, and Georges fires her when he finds out. When she protests, he says, I hope someone gives you the same care that you give your patients. She says something unbloggable to him as she leaves.

Anne is in a lot of pain, while being bathed by a nurse, sometimes even as she is lying down. She refuses to eat much, taking just a few spoonfuls at a time. And not even much water. Once, when she refuses, Georges threatens to put her in a nursing home where they would force-feed her if she refuses. She takes a mouthful after that. But when she refuses again, he slaps her, and immediately appalled and sorry that he had done so.

It is clear that both of them are suffering. Eva visits again, and complains that Georges is not answering her calls or replying to her voicemails. She says she is worried about how they are doing. Georges tells her quite frankly - your worries are no help to me. I do not have the time to think about your worries. She is even more upset to see the state her mother is now in. Georges makes her a cup of tea to make her feel better.

One day, as he hear Anne call out in pain, he goes in, strokes her hand as usual while telling a story, and calms her down. When it appears that she might have gone back to sleep, he takes a pillow, and snuffs the life out of her.

He then methodically tapes the doors, closes the windows, buys some flowers. Then he writes a letter. To whom, it is not clear. The only thing we know is that he describes the adventure he then has, while trying to catch a pigeon that flew in to the apartment. He only says that he released the pigeon after catching it.

He goes to bed, and the next morning, he wakes up to the noise of plates being cleaned in the kitchen. He goes in, only to find Anne, fully dressed, cleaning the dishes. She says they have to leave soon, and as he follows her out after helping her with her coat, she asks him to wear his coat as well for it is cold out. He complies, and shuts the door as he walks out.

Both of them, hopefully at peace.

Eva is shown in the living room of the empty apartment later.

The movie tugs at your heart strings. I watched it with my dad, and I must say he was quite moved by the story. I reminded him it was only a movie when he remarked that it must have been awful for Georges to kill Anne. He said, but imagine, for someone somewhere, this is life!

C'est la vie.

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