Highbrow/Lowbrow: A weekly update on Denver culture from deliciously fancy to wonderfully mundane
FILM: Amour, Chez Artiste
My father considers himself somewhat of a cinema aficionado. We both share a deep love of films and often head to the Chez Artiste on a Sunday morning for the latest art film du jour.
When he invited me to attend his Sunday morning viewing of Amour, I politely declined. I had zero interest in this on-screen, geriatric love fest, despite its plethora of accolades and recent Academy Award win. Despite my lack of interest, I was persuaded to attend.
Michael Haneke’s (Austrian filmmaker and director of Amour) films are generally classified by their bleak and melancholic style. Amour is no departure from this. The film’s opening credits are simply rolled out in plain white script, devoid of any sound or background. The audience is roused from the quiet by a policeman’s deafening knock at the couple’s Parisian flat.
Anne and Georges (played by Emmanuell Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant respectively) a couple in their eighties, are living out the rest of their years in quiet contentment. Almost immediately their relationship portrays a strong bond and easy camaraderie. They fill their days with books, concerts and quiet meals together, until Anne unexpectedly experiences a stroke. Without hesitation, Georges takes on the role of sole caregiver, and Anne makes him promise that he will never take her to a hospital. From this moment, the audience watches her slow demise from vibrancy into full-blown paralysis and dementia.
The camera shots are painfully slow at times, often resting on a character’s face for what seems like an eternity. This technique establishes the honesty and subtle nuances portrayed by Riva and Trintignant. I remain haunted by a scene in which Georges desperately tries to calm down a moaning Anne, who is completely bedridden and unresponsive at this point. Georges tells the story of his first ever camp experience. He describes how much he hated the first few days of camp away from his home. He would have been trapped had his mother not come up with a secret code to let her know if he wanted to come home. Before he is able to send his mother the signal (a star-filled post card), he is struck by diphtheria and sent to the hospital. He describes the sheer elation he felt when he wakes up out of camp to his waving mother. Anne’s moans stop. At this moment, it is poignantly clear that Anne is trapped, much like a young Georges, and is ready to be set free. Georges must grapple with his own feelings in keeping her alive and understanding what Anne would want.
The director said, “A feature film is twenty-four lies per second” Ironically, this cinematic masterpiece (in my opinion) could not be closer to the truth. Despite age, race and class, this film honestly, and quite painfully, strikes at the heart of a universal truth: love conquers all. This, my dear readers, is why Amour is this week’s perfect highbrow choice. Warning: post viewing pick-me-up may be necessary.