‘Amour’ asks can love survive in sickness?

In Japan, there’s a folk tale about an old couple who die together and become intertwined pine trees. If only growing old together could be so peaceful and come to a magical ending. That isn’t the case in real life where things are uglier and often meander into a moral twilight zone. The  2012 “Amour” is about the gray areas of love, loss and growing old among the silver set, but one shouldn’t mistake this tale of mortality and morality to be just about old love gone wrong. The Oscar-nominated “Amour” is currently playing at the Pasadena Playhouse 7.

In English, the traditional marriage vows include “in sickness and in health.” And the sickness can come at any time, when you’re young as in my case during my first marriage or in the middle years as with my father. One would like to believe we’d face troubled times with grace and perseverance, but this is often not the case. And it’s not the case in this story, written by Michael Haneke who also directs.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) have lived a comfortable life as music teachers whose students have gone on to high profile careers.  Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) lives abroad with her philandering husband. Georges and Anne have been together so long their lives are twisted into couplehood–all their time seems to be spent together. Then one day, Anne has an episode. It seems minor. She has lost a bit of time, as if daydreaming, but the daydream slowly unfolds into a nightmare as she has more episodes, strokes that eventually incapacitate her.

When you have hope, when you know or can believe that your loved one will recover, it’s a matter of patience. When the only release shall be death and the patient’s condition will only get worse and death is waiting far off in the future, life as a caregiver can become more of an endurance race.

We actually know how things will end, but Haneke flashes back into the past to show us how Georges and Anne get to their final parting. Look carefully at the condition of the kitchen when we see Georges and Anne having their meal on that fateful day and see how things begin to change.

The movie about love is brutally truthful and painfully heartbreaking. If you haven’t been there, then you understand this might be the future of even the happiest marriage. You never know what will happen and until then, you’ll never know how you’ll respond. You could be in your prime. You could be in your so-called golden years. We can all hope that we find inner nobility and help along the way, but even with happily ever after comes old age and getting old often isn’t pretty.

In French with English subtitles. This Austrian movie has been nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Foreign Language Film, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress (Riva), Best Writing (Haneke) and Best Achievement in Directing (Haneke). It won a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language and Leading Actress and the Palm D’or at Cannes and the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film.

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