Saturday, February 23, 2013

2012 Film of the Year Countdown: #10

Amour (Michael Haneke) [118 points / 10 votes]

"“Imagination and reality have little in common.”

The above quote, in a nutshell, can summarize not only the the central theme of Amour, but also the oeuvre of its creator, director Michael Haneke. Over the course of his career, Haneke has acquired a bit of a bum rap. Most criticism surrounding his work involves some negative connotation of the word “provocateur,” but the fact of the matter is that Haneke respects his audience far more than they often respect themselves. Haneke is, above all, an existential observationalist -- a man obsessed with taking a long and hard look at the world we live in, seeking through cinema an answer to the questions that whisper from the darker corners of the conscious mind. Who are we, really? What, exactly, is the nature of our existence? As a director, Haneke’s technique for finding the answers to these questions is grounded in a willingness to peer into the abyss and initiate a defiant dialog with whatever demons raise their hoary heads. As his career has progressed, his talents as a filmmaker have become more pointedly focused, presenting scenarios that challenge our humanity directly by showing individual aspects of life as it truly is, rather than as we imagine it to be.

In Amour, Haneke fixes his gaze, and ours, on the greatest of all existential crises -- the looming inevitability of death -- and achieves something close to the perfection of his art. At its heart, Amour seems a simple story -- the struggle of a husband and wife against humanity’s most invincible opponent. But, as the quote above reminds us, the reality of what we are about to experience is very different from what our imaginations might lead us to assume. Nothing in a Haneke film exists merely as surface; everything, as it is in life itself, is layered with deeper meaning and significance. As the story unfolds, these meanings emerge from the scenery and, more importantly, from the extraordinary performances of veteran actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, to reveal a story not only about the tolls taken by the ravages of time, but a miraculously clear-eyed vision of the sublime power and purity of marital love. It is a vision all too rarely conveyed within the world of film, and it packs a power that saturates the soul, leaving a haunting appreciation that lingers and deepens in the mind as our own time marches inexorably forward.

And therein lies a minor miracle; an epiphany, if you will. Haneke has shown that, while imagination and reality may have little in common, it is the imagination that sows the seeds of the real. It is a deeply humanist perspective, and one that is based on a love of mankind as deep and abiding and unselfish as the love shared between Georges and Anne. With Amour, Michael Haneke has proven once and for all that the only provocation he is guilty of is teaching us look a little harder at who we are in order to become the souls we wish to be." - Donald Carder

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