Cannes 2012 Review: No Love for Michael Haneke's 'Love' ('Amour')
by Alex Billington
May 20, 2012
I have found my least favorite film of the Cannes Film Festival so far. And it's the film many critics are calling the best of the festival. But I can't stand it. I sat through all two hours of this boring, tasteless, bland film and still got nothing out of it. I was absolutely baffled hearing weeping all around me as it started to reach the end. People actually liked this? How? Maybe I'm just young, too young, to appreciate a film about growing old and dying (when I'm just starting the bigger part of my life). Maybe it's just Haneke expressing his inner concern for his nearing end (he's 70 years old). Whatever it was, I hated it. Impressive? No way.
Amour, or simply just Love in English, is the latest film from award winning Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke (who won the Palme d'Or a few years ago). I will admit I don't have that much experience with his films, but that's because I've found that the few experiences I have had (Funny Games, The White Ribbon) end up being some of my least enjoyable experiences anyway. Love is about an old married couple getting older, coming to grips with dying. That's about it. Just a portrait of this old, stubborn couple struggling to accept that death is right around the corner. Stubborn from the perspective of someone in their 20s, at least. Then again, maybe I don't know that experience, so it may say more about me than it does about the film.
Maybe it's just the way I was raised, on spectacle films and cinematic entertainment that whisks you away to another world (which this does not do). I've obviously since grown to have an appreciation for great cinema big and small, in English and/or other languages, and have come to love foreign filmmakers like Jacques Audiard, Xavier Dolan, Nicolas Winding Refn and Bong Joon-ho (and many, many others). But I just can't stand this kind of work. It's boring, there's no better way to describe it. Just showing this couple for two hours deal with the reality of aging—while attempting to ignore death as long as they possibly can—isn't interesting or exciting or riveting or fascinating or thrilling, it's entirely bland and boring, simple as that.
Sure, the performances are good. Sure, the cinematography and lighting and set design is fine. But a film is more than the sum of its pieces. Unfortunately the sum here comes to nothing. Zero. Zilch. I couldn't have even squirted a tear if I tried. Amour, for me, was devoid of a single ounce of emotion. Again, maybe it's simply because I'm not 80 or close to nearing 80 at all. Maybe it's because I've never been married. But even so, wouldn't I be able to find something redeeming in this? I can find plenty of emotion in other films even if I can't specifically relate to the subject matter at hand, I can understand them. But not here, I couldn't wait for it to end, so I could get out of there and find something else in Cannes that I'd actually enjoy watching.
The best way for me to sum up a dislike of Love is to explain it's simply scenes of an old couple getting older. Yes it's a very real, raw portrait of these kind of old couples and how love (hence the title) causes the pain of looming death to be even worse, but I had no reason to care about them. Who were they? Maybe they lived a long, healthy, successful life, and if so, then why do I care that they're struggling so much now? Obviously I understand that no one wants anyone to die, and that makes sense, but that's also my point. That feeling already exists in this world, since there is already so much death that exists around us, and we've likely all experienced a death at some point (whether it be grandparents/parents, extended family, friends, etc). And since it already exists, I have no desire to care for a film that adds nothing special to that kind of experience.
My other poignant comparison for this is that it's like eating a piece of stale, bland bread. No matter what, that stale bread cannot be the greatest meal you've ever had. I could understand if you've been starving for a week, it would taste delicious. Or maybe if you've been eating the best meals in the world so many times over, that a piece of stale bread is actually a tasty change from the norm (which, considering most critics see every last film good and bad, this works). But at this point in my life I prefer something with more taste, more layers, and flavors, and ingredients that actually make it more than just another loaf of baked grains.
Amour has no substance, no style, no joy, no passion, no flavor at all. It's just quiet scenes one after another, presented in a way that will connect with some, but not all. Personally I prefer films that have substance, have style, have some kind of story or subject that I've never seen before, that take me to another world, fascinate and entertain me, educate me, stimulate me, and bring out emotions that I normally wouldn't have. Amour has none of that, and only brought out emotions of frustration, disdain and anger. There are thousands of other movies, even ones I dislike, that I'd rather watch again than ever sit through this another time. I gained nothing from it, it did nothing for me, and I want to forget it and move on as quickly as I can.
Alex's Cannes Rating: 4 out of 10
(After additional consideration, I've updated my initial rating from 2.)