On the final Sunday of the festival, Michael Haneke’s film was the winner of the coveted main prize – The Palme d’Or and it’s not difficult to see why it was the choice of the jury. It is also Haneke’s second golden palm in three years (after 2009’s The White Ribbon), a spectacular achievement for one of Europe’s most singular film-makers.
So what of the film itself? It’s predominantly a two hander between an elderly married couple, who have to confront the wife’s deteriorating health and facing her inevitable death. It’s no spoiler to say she dies, it’s made clear in the very opening scene. The next two hours detail how the situation affects them both in very different ways.
Unsurprisingly, it’s not an easy watch as Haneke’s style doesn’t shy away from laying bare the harshest aspects of their predicament and it will surely strike a particular chord with anyone who has lost an elderly relative recently. I should also qualify that it’s extremely hard to find fault in any aspect of the film and there’s absolutely no doubt it is a towering achievement but it was not one of my favourite films of the festival. This is probably more down to my taste in films than anything about the film. Every shot, every line of dialogue, every scene is so meticulously composed that it all feels somehow too precise. Despite the subject matter itself being hugely affecting, the film did not have the impact on me that it clearly had on other members of the audience – the lady next to me was in floods of tears with about half an hour of the film still to go.
This is me nit-picking though as the film is of a quality that won’t be matched many times this year and the acting deserves every accolade it is likely to receive. Real life octogenarians Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who are in almost every scene, deliver performances that are astounding in their honesty and bravery. It is a testament to the strength of other films at the festival, that this didn’t take my top spot.
Amour is released on November 16th.