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The Grand Suggests: "Amour"

As an elderly woman rapidly deteriorates, her husband refuses to let her die

"AMOUR": It's the story of an elderly couple coping with one's debilitating illness.

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There are profoundly powerful human experiences that are captured and recaptured seemingly annually by filmmakers. Then there are those that are equally or exceedingly powerful yet are seldom selected for depiction.

What's even more peculiar is that the large majority of humanity shares some of the experiences that seem to be avoided.

What, I've wondered, may restrict the great writers of today, many of whom I believe are screenwriters, from engaging some of our most universal experiences?

Experiences, or more specifically the emotions that they invoke, that are very rarely universally affirming or universally discouraging.

One reason could be the complexity of such emotions and the logistical standards of film. It is no easy task to tell a powerful story and justly illustrate the accompanying emotions in less than three hours.

That could be why Amour, the latest film by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, has been heralded as one of year's triumphs.

Not because it feels triumphant, but partially because it doesn't.

The film depicts the end of life deterioration of an elderly French musician, Anne (played by Emmanuelle Riva) and her husband Georges' (Jean-Louis Trintignant) passionate love for her displayed through service, loyalty, anguish and sorrow.

The two, both music teachers, have spent a life rich in love and art together in Paris. In one scene their adult daughter says to her Georges, while processing her mother's suffering, "as a child I remember listening to you two make love. I felt (that) you loved each other and we'd always be together."

This isn't, however, a film that seeks to soften or mask the horrors of end of life illness with cheeky dialogue or dramatic compositions.

Rather it succeeds by powerfully capturing the dark, quiet stillness that invades - and eventually engulfs - a human being inching closer and closer to the completion of their existence and by capturing the torturous conflict that rips at the souls of spouses who agonize over their partner's suffering but fear the guilt that comes with preparing to let them pass.

Haneke is acutely aware of every element of the film's aesthetic. The dialogue decreases throughout as Anne becomes physically unable to speak and Georges grows more and more fatigued. Understanding the importance of stillness and silence, Haneke uses no background music, save that played on piano or stereo by Georges.

Only a film intentionally cognizant of its every moment could tell the story Amour does in just over two hours. Haneke has again proven himself to be one of international film's elite storytellers and Riva and Trintignant deliver flawless performances.

I can assure you that at times Amour may be hard to watch, but also that you will be glad you did.

Amour opens at The Grand Cinema Friday, Feb. 15.

Zach Powers is the marketing director at The Grand Cinema

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