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.)
Reader Feedback - 63 Comments
"... but I had no reason to care about them. Who were they?" That's a shame. To be at Cannes, where there are so many richly creative "art" being shown left right and center, but leaving the theater with absolutely nothing after 2 hours is just... I don't even know what to say. I honestly would have got up and left after 20 minutes or so, Cannes is way too special to view a movie you won't enjoy...
Agent Kid Society on May 20, 2012
it feels like you really want a do over so you can have that time back...
Jericho on May 20, 2012
You just lost your critic cred brah...
HanekeIsGreat on May 20, 2012
if you don't care, why did you waste your time and ours!? and bro, giving ghost rider a 7 and saying haneke films are some of your least enjoyable, you know what i won't say anything bad, you've said enuf. but i def agree w/ agent kid society, go out and see shit you actually want to see and tell us about that, not this other bullshit that we all know is not true. and a film critic you are sir, as you are criticizing film, no? and your site is dedicated to movies and their news... hmmm, interesting position you have taken.
El_Profeto on May 20, 2012
okay, so you are not a critic, yet you "criticize" movies in the public forum via this blog you got here... the difference between, as you put it, "just some dude with a blog" as oppose to a "critic" is insubstantial. you criticize in the public forum and quite simply, you should stop.
boo! on May 20, 2012
Alex. You are a critic. Thousands of people read your opinions and love them. They might not agree with them, but you're part of the discourse. To distance yourself from that does us all a disservice. Say it loud, say it proud, and stop this modesty :p
Samarand on May 20, 2012
Yes you are, because there is not a standard about how to be a good critic. You express your opinion, and its as important as any other. I like to read critics, but understanding they are subjetive. ALL OF THEM
JM on May 21, 2012
Alex have you ever made a feature film? No not some bullshit short I mean a 75 minute to 2 hr film that had a festival run???? Don't HATE on Henke like they say "those who can't do, unfairly criticize those who can"!
guest on May 20, 2012
So the only way a person is allowed to dislike a film is if they've made one? I'm getting tired of people saying that you can't "hate" on a film because you never made a film, it's a bullshit argument.
John on May 20, 2012
That would be like me telling you, "Have you ever professionally reviewed a film from a prestigious film festival? No? Then DON'T HATE on someone who does just because you disagree!" I wouldn't do that, because it doesn't make ANY SENSE. Ergo...
Sarah on May 20, 2012
It seems that you just hate the subject matter.
Antho42 on May 20, 2012
Perhaps a bit more computerized graphics and profanity might have appealed to your adolescent taste.
Richard Downey on May 20, 2012
And Alex Billington shows once again he has no business covering any films that aren't Summer Blockbusters......
Matt on May 20, 2012
Well you didn't like The Hunt either and that seems to be getting raves. Hell, the only film you seem to have loved is Lawless which is no surprise since Tom Hardy's in it and it has enough action to keep you pleased, I'm sure. Even the foreign or more 'arty' films you do 'like' year-by-year, you really sound like you don't care for them and just don't want to get bashed. If you don't like these films, I'll gladly take your place, as will plenty, I'm sure.
Matt on May 20, 2012
Once again, it's easy to claim you love something, but the only films I see you displaying a genuine passion for are Summer Blockbluster or Action-heavy films. That's fine to do, but if your rubbing in the fact you get to see 'World Premieres before everyone else' when you're clearly not anticipating the majority of them, you're just making yourself look foolish.
Matt on May 20, 2012
Whether you like Haneke, the film, or the topic I don't think that gives a reason to hate, or be disturbed by, Alex's honesty and attempt to express his shock of an experience. I as well immediately sensed it is likely due to Alex's lack of experience towards some of the more complex topics we deal with in life, as he voluntarily admits a number of times. The fact that he voluntarily admits it, emphasizes his desperation to find some explanation for his lack of experience for the movie. I think it is admirable that Alex wrote this with that honesty, knowing full well he may expose a lack of maturity (limited to the realm of the topic). Alex, for his age and for many years more, is not in a small minority of people sheltered from the reality that death is lurking closer than people think, and that young or old it is a luxury (pity?) to believe in ones invincibility. After seeing the movie, the review should aid to better place where the reviewer fits with our own interests towards such movies. Unless you expect to find a reviewer that always matches your taste, I think this is a beneficial aspect of review. Why are people so offended that he had the experience he did and shared it? I don't see arrogance in the review, I don't see hate; I see frustration, questioning, and the attempt to prevent others who maybe are on his page in this topic get the perspective that they relate to. I think as much as his maturity is questionable on the topic, the commenters' maturity are questionable in a more general scope. I am sure you all have seen a movie that did almost nothing for you but others thought was a great experience.
check yourself on May 20, 2012
I agree 100%, there have been plenty of times when I hated a movie, but everyone around me loved it. Alex put his honest opinion in it and realizes that even though he might have hated it, others will possibly like it. You don't have to always rely on critics to help you watch a movie. You just have to go and see it yourself and then make your own opinion about it.
Holly on May 20, 2012
Yep, I agree with check yourself. I don't know why people are complaining about someone's opinion, especially when it's expressed on a site they own. If you don't like Alex's reviews, why read them?
Elbak on May 20, 2012
As a film student and Michael Haneke fan (have not seen Amour) I salute your bravery mr. Billington. I adore these kind of honest reviews. As a European myself, it has always boggled me (us) that American critics think it's intelectual to like a slow film with subtitles. Regardless. European critics disses so many of these films you guys think is great, so I love when a young American comes out of the closet and calls it a dud. That takes guts, and you have rightfully earned my respect, even though I probably will love the film.
Guest on May 20, 2012
Or maybe the people who like "slow films with subtitles" just like those films and aren't trying to be "intellectual".
Maribeldeschain on May 20, 2012
That can't be it. 😛
Blargh on May 21, 2012
I'm kind of a Haneke fan, so I'm very excited for this! I remember last year you absolutely hated 'Sleeping Beauty' which I liked, I hope it's another one of those for me 🙂 Thanks for being honest and not saying the easy/expected thing!
Davide Coppola on May 20, 2012
I love these responses. "I'm sure I'd love this film, but you didn't, so you're stupid". Aren't we past that yet?
Peter Kosmal on May 20, 2012
I love "the love" even if it fail I trust in hanke so hard Very powerful filmmaker He blow in soul of cinema He is descendant of fritz Lang He keep alive "classic cinema" Cinema owe to this such director even one film of them was bad Also this is not bad certainly
Ehsan Davodi on May 20, 2012
The fact that a film got a response whether positive or negative, it shows it did something right. It opened a discussion. I think indifference is the worst. You are entitled to your opinion no matter what. Not every film is made for everybody. You can always revisit it in due time when you are ready. Another year my friend. 😉
Yama on May 20, 2012
Haneke films are overated tripe. I salute you Alex for not following the hipsters. Haneke fans also remind me of Beliebers, they will attack you for hating.
MarlonBranDoh on May 20, 2012
Not all Haneke fans are hipsters or haters.
Davide Coppola on May 20, 2012
I give Alex the break he needs simply because he admitted that he might be way too young to appreciate a film dealing with death and dying. This culture we live in is terrified, terrified of death. Alex reveals he's no different and a product, perhaps a victim, of our culture. Hanke makes interesting, difficult films that I don't always like. I hated his remake of Funny Games for instance. Thought it was thoughtless and totally without merit and questioned why this filmmaker would want to remake one of his own films. Very wierd. Death, and its cloak hanging over us all interests me and plan on see this film. Alex is not too young to realize he fears death. Perhaps this experience will help him face that fear thus leading to a more interesting and truthful life rather than in denial of the only thing, or at least on of the only things we all have in common...we all are going to die and none are happy when it approaches no matter how old or how young you are!
Bo on May 20, 2012
This is Bo again...a P.S. to my above post. Just read Owen Gleiberman's review of this film at Entertainment Weekly...ew.com and he is a much older critic that has been around a long time. He very much liked this film and renders a very intelligent and more mature look at the film's concerns. No knock on Alex. I'm still very impressed with his truthfulness; even though I could tell by is review he thinks isn't a review that he simply didn't 'get' this film and had no interest in dealing with the subject matter at hand. So be it. Thanks Alex.
Bo on May 20, 2012
You don't have to like it or hate it. Be your own critic and let the man have his own opinion. In the end whatever he writes here won't affect your judgment.
Gabriel O. Maldonado on May 20, 2012
I'd say "frustration, disdain and anger" are pretty intense, real human emotions, and that those were precisely the emotions you should have been feeling because they are probably some of the same emotions we feel as we near the end. Now I'm not much older than yourself; I'm 31, but even before I was married I was able to connect with these so called "boring" films that had almost nothing to do with my own experience. Maybe I just loved film enough to expand mentally beyond my own paradigm. If you didn't "enjoy" the film, that's something totally different, and that's your deal, your right. But to say that it's the film's fault is not necessarily true. It sounds as though you're young and can't make the mental leap necessary. As a critic, however, you should probably work on that...
AzulAzul on May 20, 2012
Then its a question of youre own tastes, which is good to express, but you go a step further, insulting Haneke almost. I think you would do well to show respect to someone who remains true to the reality of cinema. He is a true great of our discipline and surely that garners respect which transcends opinion?
McDonards on May 20, 2012
Sorry, Alex. I somehow got the idea you were a critic when I stumbled on this page. Honestly though, kudos to you because look at what a dialogue you sparked between film lovers! You have every right to your opinion. It's just an opinion that seems bound by your age. It doesn't make it better or worse, just somewhat limited. Haneke himself has been outspoken about making films completely antithetical to the kind you say you enjoy most, so it makes perfect sense that you feel this way. It's hard for this not to come across as condescending, but I have a feeling your appreciation for films like this - even a Haneke-type aesthetic - might grow over time. And hey, maybe not. But I have a feeling it will.
AzulAzul on May 26, 2012
So this is the first time I come across this film review(?) blog and I can't quite believe my eyes. I have studied and written a 12,000 word dissertation on the films of Haneke dating back to 1988 and what you have written above would make me believe that you have absolutely no idea what you are saying. How can you write such 'tosh'? My favourite line: "Personally I prefer films that have substance"
White_plastic on May 20, 2012
White_plastic on May 21, 2012
Fuck these people Alex, you're in France, why are you bothering to write rebuttals to ad hominem attacks? Go out and enjoy the festival and stop feeding these trolls...
peloquin on May 21, 2012
You guys are making quite a fool of yourselves...you're judging someone for expressing his deslike on a movie none of you have seen...thats just ridiculous and childish. I would be more comprehensible if you had seen the movie, but attacking someone like this out of nowhere is just nonsense... As someone who sometimes doesnt share the critics' opinions, i feel sympathetic. I hated tree of life, and yet so many of you loved it, and thats fine. And perhaps there are films that i love and you find horrible, thats called personal taste... Ps: i agree that you should accept being called a movie critic alex :-p dont be afraid of your opinions and style, embrace your taste (i dont allways agree with you either)
Ricardo_PT on May 20, 2012
Wow. I bet Alex wishes he didn't write this review.
Rodion on May 20, 2012
It's good you stand by your opinions, i just meant a lot of people claim to never be coming back to this site again. It's never good to lose readers but their loss. I enjoy opinions, because (believe it or not) i have them too!
Rodion on May 21, 2012
Mr.ricardo pt You hate tree of life? You are not critic right? You hate flinni too right? Darden brothers too? Pazoloni too? Gus van sent too? You not critic and this is not important! Alex said he is not critic too, ok , but I think none of critics hate tree of life dude I think Alex must say opinion but not "destroy from the root" everything, also I love Alex , other reviews of him are right everytime, but he doesn't like slow complicated movie, ok Alex ,love you But we respect for haneke and his radical cinema
Ehsan Davodi on May 20, 2012
Your opinion is not that special, Mr. B.. Most people do not like Haneke. So you are part of the 90%. Haneke has an entry fee. It is called Kafka, J. Joyce, Dostojewski, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, but also Kiarostami and Bresson. Haneke does not make entertainment. His films are an intellectual discourse and that is known. So go and see what you like. If you like musicals, but hate opera, see musicals and write about musicals.
Longyearbyen on May 21, 2012
I don't mind if you don't find it intriguing or entertaining. I don't care if others do mind. (Why do they really ...) But it does remind me of one other film you reacted to in a similar way if I am not mistaken, Another Year, that was pure joy to me. It the case very similar here? And then some of your favorites were a let down to me, while others spot on, and so on. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right.I enjoy your blog and coverings regardless. I wish you'd keep doing it with the same geist, good luck.
Robert L. Tuva on May 21, 2012
I quite understand your position. I frequently find myself in the minority when it comes to highly praised films. The first example that comes to my mind is James Cameron’s Titanic. I loathed it. I think the 1953 American film of the same name is vastly superior. Interestingly enough, both versions currently have 88% "Fresh" ratings on Rotten Tomatoes! But that’s neither here nor there. What I really want to say—as a professional writer and editor—is that while I admire your passion, courage and ability to put together 948 words without misspellings and egregious grammar errors, I found your style of writing a bit off-putting. My initial reaction was one of being assaulted by a veritable tsunami of out-of-control verbiage. The good news is that it need not be that way. I recently read a scholarly text about the biblical Book of Job. While I was not overly persuaded by the evidence the author marshaled in support of his argument, I was filled with admiration for the way in which he said what he said. In fact, if he had been standing in front of me, I would have knelt at his feet for the sheer virtuosity and felicity of his style—which included precision and economy in the use of words, elegance of phrasing, restraint regarding repetition, surprisingly fresh metaphors, etc. I’m sure that all of that would be well within your grasp if you were to put your mind to it.
20minutes on May 21, 2012
To me, this film sounds similar to Iris (from 2001). So many critics adored the film, and while it was a good film, I did not like it. I simply could not get into it – and it sounds like for the same reasons you did not like this movie. Being young, and having no experience of a great, life-long love, or having to cope with the suddenly real problem of dying – it makes it difficult to be engaged in the film. Some movies are able to draw us in, but others cannot. There are times when I’ve watched a film with my parents and I had no emotional connection to it, but my parents were weeping from the experience. No need to apologize for your opinions or the fact that you just might not have been the “target audience” for this movie. I’ve still never seen a Haneke film, although I’ve been meaning to for the past few years. Perhaps I’ll plan on watching Cache instead of trying to catch this in theaters when it finally makes its rounds.
Emma on May 21, 2012
Weird formatting. Sorry - hate when that happens.
Emma on May 21, 2012
By all means watch Cache; one of his best films, in my most humble of opinions. Alex is sure catching a lot of flack on this one, eh Alex? Goes with the territory I reckon when you start your own web-site and render your opinion(s) on films which are so subjectively experienced by each person. I find I will no doubt differ from your experience of this film as I felt Owen Geriberman at EW was probably more my cup of tea. But, hey, I'm an old dog and have always been able to form my own opinions regardless of what others thought. Look, I hated, hated and still do, the orginal Rocky...let alone all the idiotic sequels. As I told my friends then, I thought Stallone a hollow horrible actor/writer with nothing to offer. Many (friends)finally admitted I was right (even though, much to my dismay they still like the original) as the years passed and Stallone become much more obvious in what drivel he was producing. I digress in my horn tooting and must beware as who knows how many of Alex's readers and fans and perhaps Alex himself who might just really dig Stallone. To each his own; it's all subjective in the end, which makes film viewing so terrific.
Bo on May 21, 2012
Alex, Didn't you get the memo? There's a list floating around of all the movies people have to like. Apparently this movie, which just came out and almost no one has seen, is on it.
Chris Castillo on May 21, 2012
i find it interesting that the reviewer notes "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" and then says it has "no substance, no style". It seems more accurate on his part to say it has a specific realistic style crafted with the above pieces that he felt has no substance. Just a slight niggle. My own take on his reaction that I would love to hear his thoughts on. He says very honestly "Maybe it's just the way I was raised, on spectacle films and cinematic entertainment that whisks you away to another world". This caught my eye as I have always thought of films in two categories, those that aim to provide escapism from the world of the viewer and those that aim to show the viewer an accurate reflection of the world around the viewer from the directors perspective. Both certainly have their place and I have always loved the latter for its greater aim to educate or awaken the audience, to think about the world differently. When the reviewer says "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." it seems very clear to me that he really has his heart and mind in the escapism type of film. The truth is that many many filmgoers also think that this is the primary purpose of film and will similarly watch a film made for different reasons and call it boring and pretentious without just realizing that it is not intended to offer escape. It's intended audience is one that will self-consciously consider the film in context of their life and world and make conclusions where the film is intentionally ambiguous. Many others will argue that a film should always entertain as well and I would argue that an audience focused on film as reflective therapy will be entertained by their own emotional journey and consider the film in context of this. Fair enough this was the reviewers personal take on the film. But since he mentions a few times how he has over the years opened himself to considering more arty films, yet still doesn't recognize when a film is not supposed to "whisk" him away, I felt the need to speak up. A film as art should only be considered in context of itself. Like a single life, it is all subjective to the part that has already existed. In film, this means that the first 10-15 minutes will establish everything, the logic, the purpose, the style and the universe. Everything after should be viewed in context of this establishment. And in my opinion, every film should be judged by what it success at following through on this mission statement. The reviewer seems to be judging the film less by its success as a film, more by the fact that it doesn't adhere to his own standards for a film. So fair enough he says that he is no critic, but at the very least I hope his journey to understanding arty film goes somewhere new.
adamfox on May 22, 2012
Alex I'll tell you something that I've hard a lot from my grandfather the moment anyone sees anything they become a critic. But I will come to your defense. Some people have framed themselves so cry at movies like that. They feel.that that is the correct response. It is also possible that you have already subconsciously come to grips with your own mortality therefore a movie about someone struggling with theirs at the end doesn't move you. Or it could be that this movie just isn't for you.
Deadpool-003 on May 22, 2012
This movie sounds horribly boring. I watched my grandfather die of cancer for real, so I will skip this one. Also, Alex, forget the haters haha. These fools getting so mad because you didn't like a movie, are just that. It's funny to see these assholes rip Alex for him disliking a movie. Crazy how people react to a negative opinion on something they may enjoy. To each their own!
HealthyPoison on May 22, 2012
He didn't like the film. Deal with it! He also qualified his dislike with the admission that he might be too young to appreciate its subject and, yes(to Danielson), probably hasn't been in a long term, loving relationship. Few people have been married for this long, so, for some of them, relating to the subject isn't so easy. Every human's response is directly related to that human being's influences, experiences, genetics, and intellectual (inner) discourse. Clearly, the film was not for him, but he had to see it to know that. He gave GHOST RIDER a 7/10? That film is a pile of moronic crap. Again, it's just his view. Nobody's compelled to support his opinion.
Marek Senise on May 24, 2012
And the Palme d'Or goes to... Amour! As many have said.. Cannes just isnt for you, Alex!
coswell on May 27, 2012
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