A gentleman sitting a couple of seats over from me uttered to his wife, “There are a lot more young people in this crowd than I expected!” I was one of the “young people” in question, attending an early morning screening of the Oscar-nominated foreign film Amour.
While some movies are hard to summarize, for this film you can describe it in one word: death.
The director, the brilliant Michael Haneke (whose Caché is one of my favorite foreign films), decides to leave his more shocking narrative style behind to tell this story of an aging couple in a very restrained and effective way. It's a simple film about two people who don't have much time left; the wife seems to be on a faster track to the grave, and the husband is having to deal with both his own limitations and the stress that his wife is unintentionally putting on him. We see them sleep, eat, bathe, and converse. The actions become somewhat repetitive, but the way these actions are executed get more and more difficult as the wife slips further and further into dementia.
Jean-Louis Trintignant and the oldest Oscar-nominated actress of all time, the 85 year-old Emmanuelle Riva, are brilliant and believable as the central couple. There are very few other characters in the film. A couple of family members, the landlord and landlady, as well as the occasional nurse stop by briefly, but this is really just a film about two people.
I can imagine some viewers finding this film nearly unwatchable for it's extremely slow pace. The two hours and seven minutes feel even longer. It's a very depressing experience, one of the most depressing films I've ever seen in fact. There is a difference though: In other depressing movies, you are only sad because you care about the bad things happening to the characters in the film. Amour is depressing because not only do you care about the characters, but you know that one day, most likely, YOU will become one of these people and you can't do anything to stop it from happening. That being said, while watching this movie I have never thought more about my own mortality. I think this is a powerful film FOR young people to see, even if they don't like it.
I came out of this movie thinking I needed to make the most of my healthy years while I have them, so in a strange way, the same things that depressed me also inspired me.
Benjamin Franklin famously uttered "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Between Amour and Gov. Patrick, this quote could never be more true. I would rate Amour with a score of 8 out of 10.
Amour is rated PG-13, with a running time of 127 minutes. The film is mostly in French with English subtitles. It is nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actress, and Best Original Screeplay. It is currently playing in Boston, but will expand to central Massachusetts in the coming weeks.