A memorable sequence three quarters of the way through this latest feature from Michael Haneke focuses on a series of landscape paintings hanging on the walls of a plush Parisian apartment. It is a temporary reprieve for these paintings that have otherwise slipped into a background of irrelevance, a mere part of the overall decor. We are caught by surprise, when they appear full screen in striking close-up with time for contemplation in a cinematic recreation of a gallery experience. It takes us a moment or two to adjust but, one by one, overriding all else, each of the paintings become a powerful metaphor for an outside world that lies way beyond the film’s dark and stifling interiors; a melancholic Bergmanian domestic prison that almost exclusively forms the mise-en-scene for the 125 minutes running time.
This is the once comfortable home of former music teachers now in their 80s, Georges and Anne, played by two of cinema’s most distinguished actors, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Perhaps best known for ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ and ‘The Conformist’ respectively, they have arguably reserved their finest performances to now, bringing all those years of experience to bear on their devastatingly accurate portrayal of the inevitable consequences of old age.
Georges and Anne are still content and apparently enjoying life when we see them at a concert for the only time outside the apartment. It has echoes of the final scene of Haneke’s ‘Hidden’ and once again, we pick out the protagonists from a panoramic shot of a crowd; noticeably engaging in more lively conversation than the rest of the audience. They slip into relaxed routines at home – reading newspapers, discussing music and enjoying a spot of banter – and, then, at breakfast, Anne becomes unresponsive, frozen in a fixed position, smiling vacantly. It is the start of an appalling end game, the first of two debilitating strokes and, in between, we detect the all too familiar tell-tale signs of one of life’s cruellest afflictions, vascular dementia.
The ‘amour’ of the title is of the very mature kind, particular to long-term relationships and experienced here by Georges in the face of Anne’s gradual lose of dignity, regression into confused nothingness and pending death. Keeping an earlier promise, Georges refuses to allow her to die in hospital but it’s a burden that proves too great. He creates his own terrible isolation – a soulless environment – even excluding his middle-aged daughter, Eve, played with a well-judged intensity by Isabelle Huppert returning from Haneke’s ‘The Piano Teacher’ from ten years earlier. Wholly unequipped to deal with the enormity of the change, she appears occasionally but demands much and becomes more frantic and self-obsessed with each visit.
There is one profoundly moving moment when something of Anne’s former self fleetingly returns as Georges helps her to cross the room and, unexpectedly, silently, they enjoy a brief clumsy dance. Tantalisingly transitory – almost gone before they have started – these occasional shared experiences are all that Georges has left of his former life, which falls away in front of our eyes.
Haneke makes this film with a humanity that we have seldom seen before but we are still firmly in his territory. The sense of a constant threat remains but it lurks from within rather than outside, and the ‘curse’ of mortality is, in its own way, as chilling as anything that Haneke has offered before.doxycycline costdoxycycline genericdoxycycline genericbuy doxycycline ukbuy doxycycline ukorder doxycyclinedoxycycline buy
It is deeply disturbing and engaging in equal measure, takes a subject that we avoid and demands repeat viewings and deservedly won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
- Year: 2012
- Country: Austria - France - Germany
- Filmmaker: Michael Haneke
- Screenwriter: Michael Haneke
- Producer: Margaret Ménégoz
- Cinematographer: Darius Khondji
- Editor: Monika Willi
- Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud & William Shimell
- Duration: 125 mins
- Watch the trailer