As Anne loses her speech, Riva earns her Academy Award nod by conveying every humiliation with her eyes and limited body language. Trintignant should have received an Oscar nomination of his own, since he effectively emits a helpless agony his character rarely verbalizes.
The sicker Anne becomes, the more apparent it becomes that Haneke isn't abandoning his usual funny games. In our death-dreading Western culture, he deserves credit for unsentimentally and unflinchingly depicting the ugly realities of growing old and dealing with terminal illness.
Yes, there is value in fixing an unblinking gaze in the places where our worst fears dwell, but as usual, Haneke seems intent of punishing his audience. The filmmaker just keeps lingering on and revisiting one of the most painful human experiences to the point of tormenting the viewer. The film's pace deliberately drags; 127 minutes is a long time to watch someone die — and to watch the person she loves most lose his life, too.
For anyone who has experienced even at a distance the loss of a parent, grandparent or other loved one to a long illness, “Amour” is practically torture.
There are a few instructive moments: Anne's now-famous former piano student (Alexandre Tharaud) can't conceal his horror at her condition or stop asking her questions about what happened to her; a home-health nurse (Dinara Drukarova) tends her patient with an almost mocking callousness and then curses Georges when he fires her; and the couple's daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) continually confronts her father, insisting there must be something they can DO for her mother.
In the end, Haneke's “Amour” is less about love than about loss, depicted as painfully as possible.
— Brandy McDonnell
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Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert. (Mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language)