The worst will happen, says Michael Haneke, in film after film: catastrophes personal and global, violent home invasions (twice, if you count his American remake of Funny Games), evil spying and life-ruining guilt. The guy’s not tons of fun. Nothing much changes with Haneke’s deceptively titled latest, though the writer-director has arrived—via grappling with a family loss—at an end that comes to all longtime marriages, making his movie’s impact extra shattering. It arrives in the breakfast nook, as routinized octogenarians Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are peeling their eggs. Suddenly, the latter falls into a fugue state, unreachable. Minutes later, Anne emerges, unknowing of the pause.
It’s a void—the spinning rainbow wheel of mental illness—that won’t be shooed away by hope or denial. Even as Haneke follows the trajectory of his own Terms of Endearment or Away from Her (this is the hard-core version), the crisp hallmarks of his restrained style save Amour from maudlin melodrama. Hobbies fall away, a former piano student witnesses the effects of Anne’s subsequent partial stroke, and Georges slips into premature loneliness. The filmmaker could have done without a painfully symbolic pigeon, fluttering noisily through an open window. There’s nuisance enough here: the specters of time and biology. It’s not an easy sit; we’re never let off the hook with golden-hued memories or belated bits of wisdom. Maybe this is love after all.
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