Watching “Amour”

written and directed by Michael Haneke

             When empathy is impossible 
            and any attempt of it 
            would be only obscene. 

First two disclaimers: 

Reading the script I missed a few things.  Of course Georges enters the apartment together with Anne when she returns from the hospital.  Yet he still does not know how to help her.

The way the film is photographed is simply breathtaking.  Darius Khondji is a true maestro and his work needs to be studied in depth.

The hint of how the author chooses to tell the story is contained in Anne’s dialogue.  When she still can, she states:

But imagination and reality 
have little in common (...)
and a few lines later:
I can't be bothered
to think about being you.

Haneke directs without “in your face” foreshadowing.  It is a welcoming relief since many masters rely on telling us what will happen and bask in their ability to do it subtly.  In the Hanek’s hand events are told with respect.   Their impenetrability and dignity seem to be the primary concern of the storyteller.  The same goes with to the characters who are treated with maturity, which means they are allowed their independence and are not puppets in the hands of a storyteller.  Correspondingly, the narrating camera does not know in advance what will happen. 

The last point needs to be elaborated upon: of course the film is designed, the shots thought out and the director chooses how to show an event according to its place in the whole story.  An example can be a bravado one shot elaborate opening with the camera floating through rooms, not unlike the best Kubrick moves.  Yet the next scene is filmed in one, wide shot hold for a very, very long time.  Clearly the bravado sets up the stage for the rather unconventional and demanding second shot.  From that moment on we are commanded to watch carefully and not to expect that the director will cater to the vulgarity of the dominating narrative paradigm.  

My previous concerns arising from reading stylistically various scenes turned out to be needless.   Haneke makes all kinds of scenes: the real, the imagined, the metaphorical into one rhythmical tapestry. The rhythm is the kind of this storytelling. 

Actually, if there is a stylistic pattern parallel to “foreshadowing” it is something I would call “after-shadowing”.   It is not a commentary, it is rather only so slight allowance to escape a modicum of accumulated steam.  Enough to create an emotional connection with that which happened previously but not enough to burry the narrative flow with a dreadful “meaning” or “explanation”.  The example of that would be a pigeon. Its meaning is so crystal clear that I am totally flabbergasted by the questions about its role.  It is however crucial that the pigeon comes after the big deed.  Placing this scene before would most likely make everything sentimental and corny.  

To me one of the most devastating scenes is when during breakfast Anne examines the photo album.   None of the scripted words convey the depth of this moment which is a heart breaking farewell to the past.  None shows the complexities of emotions that float through Georges as he witnesses his wife’s behavior.  The way the situation is staged and photographed allows for multiple interpretations of George’s annoyance at this moment.  

In my book this is brilliant directing. 

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