Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Review: Amour

Rating: 12a
Duration: 127 mins

Every so often you come across a film so profoundly powerful that it has lasting effect way beyond the final credits. In rare instances a motion picture can be so emotionally overwhelming that you'll remain devastated for days after. Michael Haneke's latest, Amour, is no exception.

The Austrian director's Palme d'Or winner is portrayed with a simplistic elegance and grace that deems it an utterly mesmerising experience, but one you'll never wish to impose upon yourself again. The subject matter: old age, unequivocal love and devotion in the context of mental health deterioration.

About an elderly couple -- Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) -- Haneke devises a sumptuously poignant story that primarily centres on the two, requiring very little external interference, other than a few supporting roles that interject throughout. As we settle into the pace and routine of their lives, an incident takes place one nonchalant morning that forms the premise for the two hour filmic journey of Anne's onset of dementia.

So uniquely divergent from Hollywood is Haneke's overt style, it's easy to pick up on both the use of long, static, richly composed shots, with slow, methodical pans and tracks, as well as the strong character-focused narrative that uses an apartment as its solely filmed location. 

The most deftly balanced and striking aspect of all is the phenomenal quality of acting on display. The sheer scope of emotions that transcend over the duration are breathtaking. There's so much to take in: from heartfelt adoration; to unfathomable dedication; to gut-wrenching endurance. Audiences will unquestionably be left despondent, exhausted and grief-stricken by the events of a harrowing subject matter that's bound to affect those with similar life experiences even more than those detached from it.

The depiction of both physical and mental ageing is fascinating, and effortlessly immerses you from the very start. It is this early engagement with the characters that serves to shatter your defences; it'll transform a majority into quivering wrecks regarding events impending. Admittedly, as the story progresses, there are several scenes that threaten to break audience resilience. It genuinely hones in on audience vulnerability, and in truth doesn't ease up for quite some time.

Whilst this may seem like one to avoid for anyone with a fragile disposition, Amour is something that demands your attention. A terribly uncomfortable and unforgiving duration it may be, but the manner in how it's handled must be commended -- especially its evocative prowess and production sublimity.

The notion that reminiscing days later still bares an unrelenting weight of distress speaks volumes. Amour is one of 2012's finest. It may be unbearable at times, but is nonetheless an utterly engrossing, intrinsically rewarding, accomplished piece of modern cinema.