August 6, 2012
From silent credits to abrasively intruding through the front doors of an affluent French home, Haneke immediately instructs his audience that their position is one of outsider intruding upon a personal space and by beginning with the film’s end allows the viewer an uncharacteristically kind act of mercy by letting us know from the outset that this will not be a film of causal narrative structure, negating any possibility of a sublime experience by removing the potential anticipation of ‘when will it happen’? Then Haneke allows the audience one more opportunity to choose to leave should our disposition be too weak to take on what he is about to uncover – a seemingly lengthy view of an audience sat in a theatre waiting for a performance to begin announces that we are about to look very much at ourselves through someone else’s story. The camera is stationary, unflinching in its observation.
Long takes and carefully composed, often still frames, with real-time movement ensure there is no escape for the audience from the film’s steady pace or the at times painfully tedious details of the story. Surmising ‘plot’ is a fruitless exercise here as Haneke’s voices tells us that we don’t recall the reaction or the film, but the emotion, that the vehicle and response don’t matter, it is the feeling that remains. This is his own synopsis of Amour. He further lets us know that “imagination and reality have very little in common” and gives us only Eva (a minor role here for Isabelle Huppert) as a possible stand in for the failed viewer’s anticipated insolent response, “What happens now?”, a question met with simplicity, “What’s happened up until now.”
Another achievement in truly affecting and intellectual cinema, Haneke’s Amour is confronting, inescapable; devastatingly brilliant.