And so we’re back to my post-Oscars movie blitz (fr0m 2013, that is), with just a couple more waiting in the wings before I can finally move onto something else more…contemporary.
The second last Best Picture nominee I managed to get to is Armour (meaning “love” in French), possibly the most depressing experience I’ve had in years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant film that explores the depths of devotion, sympathy, empathy, mortality, and ultimately, what it means to be human, but it’s not the type of movie there you’ll be walking out of the cinema exchanging high fives.
Directed by Michael Haneke, who gave us the frightening Funny Games (both the original and the US remake) as well as 2009’s acclaimed White Ribbon, Amour starts off with a death, and backtracks to the lives of Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an elderly couple in their 80s.
This is kind of a spoiler, but very early on something happens and one is forced to take care of the other. It’s a heartbreaking and unflinching portrayal of what I’m sure happens to a lot of elderly couples, many of whom don’t have the resources that they do — though that does not make the story any less traumatic.
With this kind of film it’s easy for the director to overplay his or her hand and turn the movie into a sappy, melodramatic mess. However, while Armour undoubtedly tugs the heart strings, it does so a-matter-of-factly, with a sombre dignity and skilled subtlety. It is a deserved winner for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars.
The performances are also remarkable. Riva got most of the acclaim and accolades (including the Best Actress nomination) for the way she portrayed Anne’s fragility, fears and anger, but I thought Trintignant was every bit her equal and the film wouldn’t have been the same without either of them. Isabelle Huppert is also very good as their daughter.
But I can’t honestly say I enjoyed Armour. At 127 minutes, it was a little long, and it felt long because of the deliberately slow pace. And the sense of inevitability just added to the pain and anguish. It’s a film I can certainly appreciate for its filmmaking brilliance, performances and ability to strike hard at the audiences’ emotions, but it’s not a film I would recommend to people looking for something to lift their spirits. Probably also best to avoid if you are old or depressed.
3.5 stars out of 5