"Il ya quelqu'un?", 'Is anyone there?' are the first words spoken on the trailer for Michael Haneke's Palme D'Or winning film, 'Amour'. These are the words that haunt the entire film, in which an ageing musician, Anne, has a series of catastrophic strokes which render her incapable of playing the piano, and is swiftly followed by the onset of dementia. Her husband, Georges, in fear and faith, does his best to care for her, as their love and their lives are tested.
Haneke is best known for brutal films, ones where women slice their genetalia (The Piano Teacher), or the murder of an entire family. While these films are physically violent, and haunting, Amour is both violent and haunting in an entirely different way, the Telegraph even described it as a 'horror' which in many ways it truly is. 'Amour' is an exploration of old age, love and the inevitability of mortality. Due to the strokes and dementia, Georges loses Anne, the woman he has devoted his life to, we see him experience grief, bereavement and bewilderment while she's still alive- hence the question that hangs over the whole film: 'Is anyone there?'. We see Anne struggle to come to terms with her own illness. The breathtaking performances from Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are human in all ways that we are human. Both bodily and emotionally they both, with Haneke, force the audience into seeing ourselves and our futures as immensely fallible and terrifying, but with such tenderness as to make us fall in love with the film itself.
The Telegraph praised Riva and Trintignant particularly, "At the close of their long careers, stretched and tested, these actors are heroically brave, subtle - and heartbreaking." And, the Guardian gave it a rare full five star review and described it as "a moving, terrifying and uncompromising drama of extraordinary intimacy and intelligence." Amour is released in the UK on November 16th.