Aging and the devastating effects of sudden illness may not sound like a sure-fire commercial crowd-pleaser, but Austrian director Michael Haneke’s restrained and emotional drama, “Amour” captured the hearts of both festival goers and the 2012 Cannes Film Festival’s jury, who awarded the film the prestigious Palme d’Or on Sunday night.
“For me, the film is simply about how you deal with the suffering of someone you love”, says the director, who is now a second-time winner of the prize (2009′s “The White Ribbon”). “That’s the true subject, not whether or not someone dies.”
“Amour”, which stars two of France’s most venerated actors, Emmanuelle Riva, 85 (“Hiroshima Mon Amour”) and Jean-Louis Trintignant, 82 (“The Conformist”), tells the story of a Parisian couple, Anne and Georges, both retired piano teachers who have settled into a comfortable and contented quiet life. They exchange opinions over the latest books, marvel at the brilliant progress of their former pupil, and discuss their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), who visits in between concert tours with her musician husband.
The couple’s routine is suddenly shattered when Anne has a debilitating stroke that paralyzes one side of her body.
“From the beginning, I wrote the script with Jean-Louis Trintignant in mind”, says Haneke. I’ve always wanted to work with him.”
Did working with octogenarian actors present any particular challenges?
“Of course it wasn’t always easy,” the director concedes. “In the end sequence, Jean-Louis speaks for about eight minutes before any action takes place. The concentration it requires to memorize that long text is extraordinarily difficult for any actor of any age. And on top of that, while we were shooting, Jean-Louis broke his wrist. So it was physically difficult for him.”
“It was sometimes very complicated for Emmanuelle as well”, he continues.
She was very worried about one scene that involves being smothered by a pillow—it was very uncomfortable! But they’re both such professionals and recognize that though the roles are demanding, they’re very gratifying as well.
And I think that gratification motivated them to try and give their best.”
Once Anne is confined to a wheelchair, then bedridden, the couple remain inside their apartment. The director says that he opted for a formal theatrical approach to intensify the feeling of the shrinking four walls. “I thought it would be useful to apply the classical unities of time, place and action that lead to using a single set,” he says. This also required particular attention to every detail in each room.
“When I’m writing, I like to have a concrete idea of the location that I’m working with. It gives you ideas, it helps you find solutions on what to shoot,” the director says. “In this case, their apartment in Paris was based on my parents’ apartment. I decorated accordingly, changing it from Viennese to French style.”
In the film, the grand piano dominates the living room, but the characters that sit down and begin to play are never able to finish the piece. Along with Anne’s declining health, the pleasure of listening to music also fades away. “One of our early titles for “Amour” was ‘The Music Stops’”, says Haneke.
“I love music, and used to play piano. I grew up with a stepfather who was a conductor and composer. At 14, I wanted to be a concert pianist, but I didn’t have the talent so I stopped,” the 70 year-old director adds with a smile.
Movie audiences can certainly rejoice in that fateful decision as well.
- Amour (Love) wins the Palm D’or (glamwire.com)
- Cannes Palme d’Or Goes To Michael Heneke And ‘Amour’ (inquisitr.com)
- Cannes Winners: Michael Haneke’s Amour Takes Palme d’Or (movieline.com)
- Cannes 2012: Michael Haneke wins second Palme d’Or for Amour (guardian.co.uk)
- Michael Haneke tempts Jean-Louis Trintignant out of screen retirement for Cannes entry ‘Amour’ (foxnews.com)
Tags: Cannes 2012: Michael Haneke wins second Palme d'Or for Amour, Cannes Film festival, Emmanuelle Riva, France, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Michael Haneke, Paris, The concentration, The concentration it requires, White Ribbon