10 Days of Oscar: Nº1 – Amour (2012)

As it’s been a custom in my blogs, I’ve decided to watch and review each and every one of the movies that were nominated for best picture at the Oscars, a feature that was always named “10 Days of Oscar”. I shall review all 9 movies nominated for best picture plus the movie that got most nominations that wasn’t nominated for best picture, which will that be? Well, you can make your calculations now, but whatever. As always, we start in alphabetical order and go on and on until the day the Oscars air, February 24th. Enjoy this series!

(Michael Haneke)

At the moment I saw this and when I finally did my list of the best films of 2012, this one resided at the top, and at the moment I said that it was the best film that I had seen in this young decade, and while that statement can’t be true anymore now that there’s a new Quentin Tarantino film, it still is among the 5 best films I’ve seen in this decade, and when the film nominations for the Oscar happened and I saw the plethora of nods for this particular film, specially when no one really expected it to have that much of a success, including nailing a best picture nod among the 9 nominees, an acting nod, screenplay and even director! How incredible is that? That’s why whenever someone wants to criticize the Oscars, I must say that a Michael Haneke received 5 nominations, and only one of them was for best film in a foreign language, that is some radical and impressive choice, I mean, one of the true masters of filmmaking getting instant recognition for one of his best films and at the same time one of the harshest and hardest watches in a while, you can’t say that the Oscars are soft stuff right now, it’s just a bit stupid to just think that (add the fact that ‘N0’ (2012), a film that looks ‘ugly’ in the big screen, managed to get a nod in the best foreign language category). So, here we have, our first movie nominated for best picture in these 10 days of Oscar, and I can already go ahead and say that it’s a masterpiece, maybe the best film that I’ve seen directed by the austrian master director, and one of the most powerful watches in recent times, one that almost brought me to tears due to personal memories and reflections unto what happened in the screen and what happened to me in real life, it was a strong film for me, and I’m glad that it was treated with such a masterful hand and a perfect respect towards its subject matter.

When I say that it’s the best Michael Haneke film that I’ve seen, it’s just because he’s never been any more effective than in this time, and with that I mean that he has always managed to impress me with his technical abilities as well as overall restraint and always making a movie a total event, a film for those who love film, but he has never made, until this movie came out, a movie that connected with me in a personal and emotional level, he has impressed me, but this time he blew me away, he managed to find the right turns and twists to put the emotions of its characters in a relatable manner, one series of feelings that weren’t only understandable but at the same time similar to those that many people in the world are feeling, and not just another series of people who are in special conditions and places in their lives, these main characters are human and they live in our reality, and they could be you or me, or they could be your parents, your uncles, anyone around you, that sense of inmediacy is something that you just can’t fake, and here you can see how masterful Haneke is at putting a personal experience that was strong in an emotional way to him, and making it even more powerful by putting it in film, make it an experience for everyone who ends up watching it, almost a cathartic sequence of feelings, it’s just completely different and I’m sure that Michael Haneke is just glad to know that his feelings and experiences can now be shared with a lot, and they are suffered, they are relatable, they are compared, and I think there’s a beauty of realism in the film world that isn’t being exploited as much as you’d want nowadays, and I’m not talking about tearjerkers but about real emotions, real feelings, real people on the screen, as if you put a camera inside a random house, just impressive.

Well, let’s talk a bit about the plot of this film. ‘Amour’ starts at a concert, and we are given the only glimpses of the ‘outisde world’ before we go inside where the whole lot of the movie will take place. In the concert we see two figures among the crowd, an eldery couple that have come to see the concert, then take the bus home and continue with their lives. But, something happens that strikes you inmediatly as something wrong that will happen, the old man (played byJean-Louis Trintignant) sees that his wife (played by Emmanuelle Riva) stays motionless while they are taking breakfast, she looks into space, locking her view, not reacting to anything that his husband does, in no time we start to notice the deterioration of the body of this old woman, and also find how actually sick she was. We see this throught a series of elipsis that make the narrative fluid and always important, without any dead time nor vacuum dialogues, we see how with each passing day she gets worse and worse, and here the performance by Riva becomes strong, believable, unbearable and always just heartbreaking, with a lot of bravery she portrays the role of a dying and sick woman with such a truth ring to it, that I think it’s the main reason for me to call this film a masterpiece, and the principal reason as to why this film rings true, as well as why it connects with the emotions of the filmgoers. Personally, my grandmother died recently, and she was staying at my home during the week, fighting with her sickness, talking and fighting, and at the same time crying and moaning due to the pain inside her, it was unbelievable to see such a strong woman so fragile, and there were certain moments in the film where that exact same feeling was bestown upon me, this was a great woman and she has been reduced to this mess. It was a hard watch, there were elements that were identhical to certain aspects of my grandmother’s illness, and that is not a pretty sight, it was… yes, cathartic.

The whole film, as hinted previously, takes place inside the apartment in which this couple lives, and as it has been said in many interviews and informations released during the promotion of this film, it was all made in a stage craft-made specially for the shots and needs of Michael Haneke, that signifies much more the place in which all takes place, and you can see how the moving doors, the windows with the bright blinding light coming from them, that was all carefuly planned and specific to every situation, so in a sense there was a total control of the environment, so nothing was left to chance, that is just a token of why Haneke has always been a masterful director, one that knows where to put the camera at the precise moment and in the right position/framing and not only regarding the space inside the filmed world, but also the framing of the characters, something that has been specially lauded this time, you just have to see the famous shots that have been made their way in the press/poster material of the film, the perfect sinchronization and mirror images of the two protagonists of the film. There are also times in which the presence of objects in the space and how the camera moves bring up the emotion and the plot upwards in an emotional and visual level, like when we hear Riva play the piano, and we see her, and then we pan to see her husband listening to the radio, it was always that and her playing of the piano was just his imagination, that is just heartbreaking… and genius.

There was a visual challenge here for Haneke in the sense that for the first time his closeup shots were second in terms of his usually great master shots, maybe because this time he wasn’t afraid to feel, and that’s why we finally feel closer to the characters, we finally are connected with them, we see what they see, we feel their feellings, and that isn’t something that Haneke usually let us do, he is usually showing us how bad humanity is, and how bad we are in our violent world, and here while not forgetting his fierce perspective towards life, he makes it approachable and sentimental in the best way the word can describe it, and this time it was the right thing to do. A cold view at something that is so close to many of us would feel ironic and burlesque. I’m glad we have this and I’m glad we have these great actors still with us. This movie is nominated to 5 Oscars, and I’m afraid it will only win 1, the best foreign film Oscar, beating ‘No’ and the other nominees.

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