“We have no control over anything large in life; only the small details are under our direct management. But even then, we lack any real authority.”
-Augusten Burroughs in This is How
Guys, we have some catching up to do.
Since I moved up the street from the Little, I go there to see a movie at least once a week, so I’ve seen a lot of movies. I got behind on blog reading (again–this may be endemic), but I caught up over the last few days, and now I want to talk about Amour.
Because, as this entry’s title indicates, Amour is bullshit.
I haven’t seen any other Haneke films, and based on this and what the rest of Film Club has to say about him, I’m not sure I want to. I walked out of Amour liking much about it. The use of music, for instance, is striking and masterful–embedded in the plot and utilized in a way that evokes emotion without being manipulative. The depiction of deterioration and death is precise and accurate, and, as you know, I speak as someone who cared for a dying spouse in my home, which has a huge impact on my feelings about this film. What struck me as true is the silence and the way things slow down, the way helplessness and depression creep in. Emmanuelle Riva gives such a brave, strong performance, and there is so much emotion in Jean-Louis Trintignant’s quiet gestures.
I suppose the fact that I’ve gotten progressively angrier at the film and people’s perception of it over the last couple weeks speaks to its power.
Specifically (and this is where the spoilers start), I kind of want to find and shake every reviewer who has talked about this film being about the impossible things one does for a loved one, because that is a bullshit interpretation of this movie. Assisted suicide is a thing some people choose–a horrible, sad thing, in my opinion, but I don’t feel I have much business meddling in that particular issue. It goes on quietly all the time in people’s private spaces, and that’s their business.
The thing with this film, though, is that when Georges and Anne have their one brief conversation about the future, Anne says something like, “Please don’t take me back to the hospital.”
Notice the difference between this and saying, “When I’m really out of it and you’re tired, just go ahead and smother me with a pillow.”
I’m thinking this is probably because she didn’t want to be smothered by a pillow, and the thing about assisted suicide is that it requires the person dying to be part of the decision making process.
Brandon, you mentioned that the film’s theme seems to be that we’ll all be humiliated in death, but I’m not sure that’s what’s going on. Anne and Georges are clearly worried about dignity, but dignity isn’t the kind of thing that can be taken from someone. It’s a thing a people give away when they make choices that are beneath them. Not recognizing this, Anne and Georges try to control what is happening to them and how people perceive them by isolating themselves in their apartment. There is every indication that there are people who are eager and willing to care for and support them, but they turn away visitors and gestures of kindness. They lie. Then even evade and spurn their daughter, causing her no small amount of pain. Because of these actions, it’s arguable that Anne suffers more than she needs to, and it’s unambiguous that Georges loses his mind and murders his wife in a moment of the deepest despair, which is no wonder, given what he was doing to himself. I don’t think Haneke is judging these two–I have a hard time judging them–but this wasn’t a necessary act of love. It was not accepting some realities and caring more about appearances than the core of things. It was about being too prideful to admit what was happening and allow people in.
This is not a loving gesture. It’s just deeply sad. It’s a way many people choose to die, but death is not about control.
You don’t smother the pigeon: you let it go.
I have some things to say about other films, but this is enough for now. John, I feel like you should count this as two entries in my Film Club tally because, seriously, look at how long I’ve gone on.