Second Opinion: Oscar Nominee Amour is not a Movie

I was upset with the members of the Academy Awards for not nominating Ben Affleck as best director for Argo.  Yet I could forgive them because I saw that they put Michael Haneke in his place.  The man has made some controversial films that challenges audiences and makes them think with efforts like The Piano Teacher, Funny Games, and The White Ribbon.  However the only controversial thing about  his latest effort Amour is that it garnered a best picture nominee.  Were there no other screeners  sent out to Academy members?  Did someone fall asleep and accidentally chose this one and now they can’t go back otherwise they would look like idiots.  I don’t know.  I do know that this should not in any way, shape or form be considered a movie.  Many fans of this are calling it an emotional experience that really spoke to them  and made them feel sad.  That is fine if you felt that way, and I’m not going to say that you are wrong if you had that sort of reaction.  But that still doesn’t mean it gets to be called a movie.  If that were the case I could call those commercials that show picture of abused dogs while Sarah McLachlan sings a movie because of how I felt.

Amour - Jean-Louis Trintignant

All movies have some sort of conflict in their narrative.  It could be an external one where one character has to fight against another.  Or it could be an internal one where the main character has to make some sort of peace with himself.  Amour does neither of these things. After Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) has her stroke and knows she is going to die( trust me this is not a spoiler because in the first two minutes, cops break into and discover her corpse) she just accepts her fate and does nothing to change it.  Same thing goes for her husband Georges (Jean-Louise Trintignat). At first he is a little hesitant at the thought of having to go through this and who wouldn’t be.  But pretty quickly, he too accepts his fate on what is to come.  So for two really long hours you are with this couple as this woman slowly dies.  There are scenes of her being fed,  being showered, and having her diaper changed. Yes, Mr. Haneke, I get it.  Those last few months of  life is a  horrible thing to go through. It doesn’t mean I should spend my money to go see it portrayed on a big screen. I’m sure I will deal with those moments with my own family when the time comes.  I should not have to deal with those same moments with a couple I hardly know.   Maybe if I had a better understanding of these characters I could care more about their dilemma.  But Amour does not give their characters any back story to make me care.  I know it sounds a bit cliché but it would have been nice to have scenes of them when they first met or anything that conveys for me these two are in love.  Simply calling your movie Love (Amour for those who don’t speak French) is not enough.

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I admire the bravery of its two main actors in portraying these roles.  Both of them are in their late 80’s and to behave like they are close to death when they themselves are of that age is remarkable.  Emmanuelle Riva’s performance is good but it’s not worthy of an Oscar nomination   Although that could be more of a sympathy vote then anything else.  That or it’s just some marketing ploy to have both the youngest (girl who I can’t pronounce name from Beasts of The Southern Wild ) and oldest (Riva) nominees on the same show.  If they have them both appear together on stage, I may just lose it.

I really wanted to like this movie and based on all the good reviews I’ve been reading.  I was expecting to be crying throughout the whole thing, but I didn’t.  Yet even if I was to cry I could not call this a movie because of the lack of conflict   Some may disagree with my statements and say that this was a realistic moment in time  between these two characters and that it was extremely beautiful.  Like I said before.  It’s fine you felt that way, but that still doesn’t make it a movie.  If you want a movie that is about two characters on a particular moment in their lives watch  Richard Linklater’s  Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and the upcoming Before Midnight.  Those movies on the outset just shows  two people talking, yet they each have a conflict.  My Dinner with Andre is just about two guys having dinner at a restaurant and it still manages to have a conflict in the story.  That is the main ingredient in all  forms of storytelling.  Without that there is no story and with no story there is no movie.  Amour has no conflict therefore should not be considered a movie.

My Score: One out of Five.

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Check out Michael’s Review Here

 

Written By The Vern

Yes Hello people. It is I The Vern. Lover of movies, women, and whiskey, but not in that particular order. Besides writing for this site. I help co host The As You Watch podcast and help contribute to the world of films wherever I can.


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the author

Yes Hello people. It is I The Vern. Lover of movies, women, and whiskey, but not in that particular order. Besides writing for this site. I help co host The As You Watch podcast and help contribute to the world of films wherever I can.

  • I have not seen Amour, but having heard this critique a couple of times, it concerns me. It seems unfair to say a movie that follows someone caring for a lived one at the end if their life does not have a conflict. I would think that the ways the characters react to the situation would give you character development. I had a similar reaction as you to Passion of the Christ, but I would never go so far as to declare it is not a movie.

  • The Vern

    My issue was that he never fought to keep her alive. He just waited it out until she passed. That is not a conflict. It would be like if Rocky knew he was going to loose, he just let Apollo beat the snot out of him. All I saw was a couple who goes through a sad moment in their lives and that’s it. Thanks for the comments, though. I do appreciate them.

  • Maybe it’s my firsthand experience with hospice, but there’s no greater conflict for me than to accept the inevitability of death in someone you live and make the decision to see it through to the end. Death isn’t always something we can fight. I’m really anxious to see this.

  • Vern, I haven’t seen Amour, so I’m responding more in terms of the idea that all movies must have a conflict. I’m not sure that’s really the case. I think of a movie like Slacker, where Linklater is just drifting between characters in Austin. Another example is something like True Stories, where we’re just observing all the different odd types in that community. You’re correct that most films do have some type of conflict, but I’d hesitate to say that the medium is defined by conflicts across the board.

    I don’t have any issue with you disliking Amour, as the topic doesn’t sound like something that’s going to work for everyone. There’s a reason that I haven’t rushed out to see it yet. I was just struck by your reasoning and though it was worth responding. Definitely an interesting post.

  • The Vern

    Dan. Thanks for posting comments. It’s been a while since I have seen Slacker, but I can recall some conflicts that happen in those moments. Even if there weren’t at least it has characters discussing interesting topics. The characters in Amour have nothing fascinating to say. This one plays out more like a documentary then a narrative structure.

  • I can understand not liking the film, but saying that there’s no conflict seems a little strange to me. Yes it’s internalized very much for both of them, but you don’t (spoiler free description of the moment of her death) without some kind of conflict being involved!

  • Michael

    Vern, reading your post, I got the feeling we disagreed slightly, only slightly about this movie. Really though, I empathized with a lot of your points. Haneke comes very close to putting me off with how silent his dramas are. Also, I don’t get how you’d cry for this film. It left me dry eyed, though awed.

  • The Vern

    David thanks so much for commenting. I do appreciate it.

    I am standing by my statement that there is no big conflict because both characters just accept their fate and do very little to change it. I suppose you could call that moment of her death a conflict, but I never viewed it that way because she says right in the begining that she doesn’t want to be taking back to the hospital and the husband accepts her wishes. It was just a matter of time for it to actually happened. A really long long long long long time.

  • I was hesitant to check out this film and you have not made me more eager to check this one out. It remains the only best picture nominee I have not watched this year.

  • Being the new boy, I’m going to steer clear of giving an opinion on this review, except to say I thought Haneke’s Amour was outstanding. Much like White Ribbon before it. Riva won the BAFTA for Best Actress last night and I wholeheartedly agree with them (for once).

  • when i saw the trailer, all i could say was “WTF?”:

  • haven’t seen it, won’t see it, and won’t defend it – but there’s nothing wrong with not fighting to keep her alive and just letting nature take its course. but for that to be “good,” we would need to know more, and likely the “more” was not in the film.

  • The Vern

    I’m glad you got a great response from this, but watching the slow death of someone I barely know and the fact that it did nothing in its entire two hours to make me feel anything for that character was a failure to me.

  • The Vern

    I wish it was the only one I have not seen. THanks for the comments