Amour (Sony Pictures Classics, Blu-ray)

Director - Michael Haneke

Cast - Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva

Country of Origin - France

Discs - 1

Distributor - Sony Pictures Classics

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

The Film (5/5)

 

   Michael Haneke's Amour is a devastating and beautiful film from the Austrian auteur who brought us such amazing films as Benny's Video, Cache, The Piano Teacher, and possibly most popularly Funny Games. This, is of course, to be expected from Haneke's films which are usually on some level equal parts disturbing, beautifully shot, and emotionally devastating. Unlike many filmmakers who continue long term careers, his work tends to still mature, and evolve with each passing film to the point where his latter films like The White Ribbon, Cache, and this film Amour are equally as outstanding as his earlier more visceral works.

 

   Amour follows an elderly French couple Georges and Anne.  They have spent their lives working as piano teachers, and as the film opens are watching a concert hall performance of one of their pupils who has gone on to much success. After these moments they retreat to their apartment where the rest of the film takes place.

     The film follows their lives soon after the concert when one morning Anne falls into some sort of spell, when she comes to Georges calls the Doctor who confirms that she has had a stroke. She finds herself paralyzed down one side, and knows her time is going to be limited. Rather, then die in the unknown surroundings of a hospital she request that Georges takes care of her through to the end in the comforts of their apartment. Georges agrees, and the film shows the difficulties of her deterioration, and the proximity of her impending death on their long and loving relationship.

 

   Amour, is a slow, methodically detailed movie which follows it's subject in a restricted environment through what could be considered the most difficult of circumstances. It is a film that is difficult to watch knowing from the outset what is going happening, and what is likely to happen, and yet like most of Haneke's output is near impossible to turn away from. 

   It's interesting to note Hanekes use of silence in this film (he is actually known for his lack of music in his films).  However, with the musical pedigree of the characters it is interesting to note the lack of music in the piece. In one of the rare instances of musical usage in the film, it is used in a Dogme-style way, and then cut short in a way that is painful for one of the characters, which simultaneously feels as if Haneke is trying to remind the audience that although music is a comforting factor in many films in Amour it's presence cuts like a knife as a reminder of a life that once was, and is now fleeting.

     I have been waiting to see Amour since I started to here trickles about it since it's European release at Cannes. It has exceeded every expectation I had for the film.  The direction from Haneke is minimalist in style, but packs a stark emotional punch to the viewer, and the combined performances by the temporarily out of retirement Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva offer a powerful, but realistic look at the trauma of a life long love disappearing painfully before ones eyes..  Amour is by no means an easy watch, but it is a powerful, moving, and positively devastating film that is certainly one of the best modern films to see release in Region A Blu-ray this year.

 

Audio/Video (4/5)

 

   Amour has been granted a fitting 1:85:1 MPEG-4 1080p transfer by Sony Pictures Classics. The film is obviously a recent release, and looks quite excellent. The film has a stark and cold look, and the Blu-ray manages to replicate that quite well. The flesh tones here are accurate, black levels are solid, and colors (and let me be honest this not exactly a colorful film) look quite natural. The level of detail is quite excellent as well, especially facial detail which we do get quite a bit in the film.

 

   The audio portion of the A/V works quite well. It is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 French track. There isn't much in the way of music present, but the dialogue comes through nice and crisp. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.

 

Extras (2.5/5)

 

   There is not a huge amount of extras, but what is here is interesting and informative. We have a 25 minute Behind the Scenes featurette on the film, followed by a 39 minute Q and A with director Haneke.  We also have the films trailer in HD.

 

Overall

 

   Michael Haneke's latest film Amour is a devestating and beautiful that truly taps into the final moments of love and the human experience. The A/V looks fantastic, and the extras are informative and interesting. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.