Michael Haneka (Fr Ger
2012) J P Trentignant; Emmanuelle
Viewed Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, 16 Nov 2012; Ticket £7.00
Empty box blues.
Amour is a film narrative expressed in Michael Haneka’s (MH) own scenario and enfolded in his particular directorial style.. After viewing the film my reaction was that the script for Amour is not in accord with his language as a film maker. Consequently the film is like a Japanese gift: the beautifully wrapped box that contains the gift is more singular than the contents
Amour shot completely in colour by MH, is presented to the audience wrapped a sepia hued patina that is redolently suggestive of the richness of the earlier life of Anne and Georges. The shooting comprises two types of shots already familiar from Hanika’s previous films: the long steadicam shots that follow characters through the increasingly familiar layout of the living space; and the formal two shot, set up as still life portraits. In Amour these two types of shots are interspersed with close ups, that often cut to reverse shot, to carry dialogue. The dominant theme suggested by the camera is that it represents that unseen presence,, the viewer’s gaze. We gaze from th outside upon the performances of the actors. We watch two actors at work evoking in their performing the processes of acute and chronic illness, understood in the context of what is presented as their long contented relationship.
Doors open and close, and feature in Amour as they do in other MH films. For instance the film opens with the couple’s apartment door smashed open by firemen. In Amour the function of the door and its frame differs from his previous work. MH in his other movies uses the door motif to suggest something about what it is possible to see. Doors are shot half open, only partially disclosing the space people and events. This framing sets up the viewer to engage with what is only partially revealed, to confront the world as a place where the hidden and the seen are in constant interplay. In MH’s films the audience is always outside, and challenged by MH to understand what is hidden and why. In Amour, the apartment’s huge French panelled doors with their impressive architraves are certainly prominent, but they serve only to seal off the space. As the apartment becomes a world of the dead, the door transposes into a gate, that is either open or closed, Beyond this there is nothing in the portal itself to challenge comprehension of what is happening. A person is dying a world is slipping away the door is closing.
It seems to me in MH’s films there are no internalities. MH does not work with subjectivity in the grain of his films. We are presented with facts of the matter; the actors play out the scenario which probes about the presented situation.
In Amour neither the camera work, nor the structure of the shots (what the camera allows us to see) nor editing, work to effect the viewer’s passage into the states of mind of the protagonists. We see the situation. It is a film about a situation. We stay on the outside of the situation; this is a film of exteriorities. As such Amour is a vehicle completely reliant of the expressive affect of its two protagonists, Anne and George, which ultimately defines the movie as an art house soap opera, worthy in its intent, barren in its execution.
The audience are cast as the watchers of the mechanics of the script. The script itself resembles a medico-sociological paper on status change in acute and chronic illness. The script cranks through the post stroke situations that sufferers and carers face: we see loss of speech and diminution of mental faculties, loss of mobility, the need for help in using the toilet, loss of bowel and bladder control, the bad nurse experience, the need to be fed, the final stages of consciously and emotionally experienced incapacitation. Each stage a little episode on the downward inclining slipway that eventually leads to the logic of mutual death. All of this is no more than a log with parellel emotive commentary. This emotive commentary, provided almost exclusively in the affect images of the actor’s faces, leads to a limited palette of the same expressive gesturing: suffering, stoicism, understanding. The longer the film continues the more evident it becomes that we are watching two actors faking it. This feeling of faking is particularly strong in the scene where Anne is killed by Georges. The camera pans off the close shot of George and Anne (who’s asphyxiating under the pillow that he holds down over her face) to Anne’s body which we see, for some 30 seconds or more, struggle and twitch as she dies. But we know no one is dieing. At this point Amour and MH lose all credibility in the banality of the literalised faked film image. For MH to film the faked twitching of Emmanuelle Rive is counterproductive and pointless, an insult to the audience. Not disturbing or shocking only irrelevant bad film making.
As it progresses Amour becomes desperate in its expressive devices. Towards the end of the film there is a montage of the watercolour landscapes which han in the apartment. The apartment space is almost overflowing with matter artefacts memorabilia of the past. MH is careful, except for a sketch of a bird in the bookcase at the entrance of le salon, to exclude this material from the imagery of the film. We are aware of it without being able to specify it. We know there are paintings but they are lost in the background. Suddenly as Anne enters the portaql of her last act, there is a montage of at least 6 paintings, all wistful landscapes The effect of this montage is to understand it as a rather heavy handed metaphor. Also intercut into Amour are a dream sequence of Georges and a fantasy sequence where he sees Anne after he had killed her. Both seem to belong to another film that was not made.
The one sequence that points to a revealing of internality comprises the scene between George and the pigeon that intrudes for a second time into the apartment through the open window. The scene is allowed to end enigmatically, though it seems likely that George having caught the bird, kills it, as a sort of emotional dry run. The scene opens up possibilities that are enigmatic dark and perhaps contradictory and which are otherwise absent in Amour, and for this reason the scene also feels like it belongs only tangentally to Haneka’s scenario adrin neatrour firstname.lastname@example.org