Well, this one managed to be sublime and entrancing whilst clearing the TV room of anyone but me.
The story is of two old music teachers. They live in Paris, but we hardly leave their gorgeous flat. Their existence is identical to that of Mrs Jack and me before she died. Quiet breakfasts, occasional trips out, music in armchairs, some playing on the piano, gentle, gentle into the good night. And then, one day, over a meal, she sits silently, time paused on her face and in her combusting brain. The first stroke is mild. The second… Old Jack wept throughout and my fellow inmates couldn’t take it.
Amour is a beautiful film. It is intense to watch, discomforting in theme as much as the long shots of incidental life. Washing up. Washing hair. Hoovering. The mundane meanders onwards despite the wretched destruction of Anne. Emmanuelle Riva in her last, great performance is amazing. The beauty from her youth remains, and the talent – wow: she takes us through the changes with proper grace. I’ll admit old Jack here is shorn of jokes and cold observation of the film. I could only stare – much as Anne’s daughter (Isabelle Huppert from Elle, caught with Riva in one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever had to watch) – as the paced inevitable played out.
Jean-Louis Trintignant is Georges, Anne’s husband. He marches on, supporting his wife, despite the obvious savaging he’s taking from age and dread. He is the active party in the film, a gentle monster, who is so French it is a surprise to sympathise so firmly with him. All his choices are impossible and you watch, admiring, at their simplicity.
A couple of times the film goes too far. Watching people think when you know they’re blank from sadness gets a bit much. Metaphors intrude through open windows. And when the story comes full circle to its blunt beginning, it needs a dash of pace and sunlight. I believe more in hope than do the final moments of Amour.
It’s solemn. It’s French. It’s two hours long. If you’re in the final days of an old relationship, or in stunned middle-age as your parents exit the planet, this film will seem deeply familiar. For some, too familiar.
Don’t let the stillness drag you to the floor. It won its prizes for many reasons.