I imagine there’s few things worse than watching a loved one deteriorate in front of you, the person you’ve grown to love and share countless memories with shatters as their shell is the only thing that remains. Michael Haneke’s intimate exploration of this happening in Amour sketches the harsh realities and tough decisions that must be made all the while trying to resist them for as long as possible. Georges and Anne Laurent are retired music teachers who live in a quiet home and live an equally quiet life. Still deeply in love with music, they fill their day by listening to old records, reading together, and just generally exist with each other. Anne begins to demonstrate odd signs, and is eventually sent into surgery for a blocked artery. The surgery goes wrong, leaving her paralyzed, beginning a string of worsening conditions and strokes that drive Anne physically and emotionally away from Georges.
Georges’ undying love for Anne delivers him to incessantly care for Anne and her misgivings. It’s fine at first when just the hazards of a wheelchair and the lack of use of her legs are the biggest dealings he has to cope with. When Anne starts losing her mind it gets tougher on Georges, and in a sense starts losing his mind too. The woman who he has spent the majority of his life with is drifting further away and becoming someone he no longer feels connected to. He gets frustrated with her, when she’s unable to communicate and unwilling to swallow the water that he gives her. In a moment of heightened frustration, Georges slaps her and then proceeds to slump down inside himself, realizing how far this has come and the drastic extent of his actions being spurned on through a person he really doesn’t know anymore. One of his daughters tries to remedy the situation by suggesting her mother out into a better situation, but Georges rebukes that as they couldn’t possibly know what he’s dealing with. It echoes the earlier themes of connection and seeing and knowing a person on a base level that would be unattainable or matched by a lesser being. Georges becomes more alone as the film wears on as Anne becomes progressively non-existent, an alien feeling to him, one that mirrors the pain of Anne.
Haneke keeps 95% of the “action” inside the Laurent’s house, doubling down on the feelings of isolation and the connective bond between Georges and Anne. By maintaining all the elements within their house their lived in history becomes consistently apparent and we can see a sort of roadmap of their entire life together. Along these lines though, the house is torture for Georges, constantly reminding him of the grand life he’s spent and shared with Anne, all the while this person is slowly vanishing. Their house is such a testament to their life and experiences that it’s only fitting that the film ends on a shot of the empty house, once full of a lifetime of memories, now a vapid area completely erased of connection.
Amour is a gorgeously produced and staged film, something that almost seems akin to a stage play or something. The themes of loneliness, death, and isolation are tried and true themes that are a constant in art since people first started telling stories. They work here especially because of the connection of the main characters and the immediate awareness of the depths of their relationship. The film is partly depressing, but it never effected me much because the relationship between Georges and Anne was so well defined that even through these hardships Georges was in control, they both remained steadfast, and knew what eventually had to be done. Love brought them to this devastating period of their lives, it’s the same thing that will get Georges through it, and it’s the same way he’ll remember Anne.