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Cinema's most decorated chronicler of human failings delivers a startlingly humane triumph.


It virtually goes without saying that Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or-winning Amour is tough to sit through. The Austrian arch-provocateur has built an illustrious career on unflinching depictions of human failings, regularly subjecting both his characters and his audiences to deeply disturbing ordeals. And, in a sense, Amour finds the esteemed auteur up to his old tricks, visiting devastating misfortune on a cultured bourgeois couple named, as always, Georges and Anne.

But here the failings and devastation are of an entirely different sort to those explored in the searing societal indictments of Caché and Funny Games. With Amour, Haneke turns his rigorously unsentimental gaze to late-life companionship, and to the inexorable, debilitating, indignities of ageing. If, previously, his films have been accused of exuding contempt, he here draws on startlingly deep reserves of compassion, and the results are terrifically powerful.

So too are the astonishing performances of octogenarian screen legends Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, as an unstintingly devoted husband and his stroke-afflicted wife. Indeed, Riva’s portrayal of Anne’s frightening decline is impossible to over-praise, while Trintignant is no less superlative as Georges. Together, they bring candid gravity to a bracingly intimate portrait of a tender, decades-long partnership as it enters its wrenching twilight phase.

While feel-good cinema this isn’t, Haneke and his collaborators have crafted an insightful, affecting, and surprisingly empathetic triumph. Those willing to brave Amour‘s bleak subject matter will find themselves richly rewarded.