Saturday March 23, 2013

France 2012, 125 minutes, 12A certificate

Directed by Michael Haneke, Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva

AmourFor those interested in meaningless statistics, this year’s Oscars ceremony included the youngest ever and the oldest ever nominees for Best Actress – Quvenzhané Wallis aged 9, for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Emmanuelle Riva, who turned 86 on the day of the ceremony, for Amour, the latest from one of the most acclaimed and uncompromising auteurs in contemporary European cinema. Riva was arguably robbed – the gong went to Jennifer Lawrence – and here is a chance to judge for yourself and to experience what for many critics will go down as the cinema’s greatest attempt at dealing with ageing and the end of life.

Trintignant and Riva are George and Anne Laurent, retired music teachers enjoying a quiet and rich life after decades of marriage. An intrusion into their home during an evening at a piano recital seems to signal the intrusion of other mortal realities into their otherwise ordered lives. Anne begins to have a series of strokes, which lead to increasing physical dependence and gradual mental deterioration.

The film, which takes place almost entirely within their apartment, charts the sadness of her decline with subtlety and grace, without dissembling or platitude, and with the clarity and attention that the subject demands. Haneke can be a divisive figure, but he can be relied on to treat our most unpalatable realities with unapologetic frankness and without sentiment – there is a morality to his work in that it refuses to dodge those issues we are most reluctant to confront.

With two central performances of great depth and dignity, this is an opportunity to see one of the most praised and talked about films of 2012. In Philip French’s review for the Observer he was reminded of a line from Philip Larkin: “What will survive of us is love”.