Once again it's that time of year that all of us movie buffs love -- awards season. The red carpets, designer gowns and beautiful hairstyles are all so glamorous and exciting. There are so many wonderful films up for Best Picture Oscars this year and they are all so different from one another. The suspense of films like Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. The refreshing surprise of Silver Linings Playbook, the masterpiece Les Miserables and of course the epic Lincoln. These are just a few of my favorites.
Ironically, one of the most memorable movies and one that happens to be nominated for Best Picture as well as Best Foreign Language Oscar is about as far from suspenseful or charming as any film could be. The movie I am referring to is Amour. It is a very somber film to say the least. So much in fact that even the head judge at Cannes was said to have despised it. Based on the plot line and some brutal reviews, I didn't run out to the nearest movie theater to see it. Most people I knew who had seen it, told me to brace myself before watching it.
So why then is Amour which has been described as abysmal, depressing and boring winning so many coveted film prizes? As a Baby Boomer and a woman who was married for 38 years, I believe it is because the film at its core is a real love story. It is about a true love affair, commitment and loving someone through the aging process. Unlike the movie The Notebook, which is similar in many ways, Amour takes a completely unromantic approach. Still, the film gives voice to the very important topic of mental health and aging.
For so many people of my generation, whether it is a parent, sibling or spouse, dementia and failing health are a reality. Amour very aptly depicts the monotony, loneliness and despair of having a loved one who once brought so much life into the house now bedridden and ill. I still remember the enormity of trying to respect my husband's wishes while making responsible decisions about his health care. Like Emmanuelle Riva's character, my husband was afraid of being judged for his fragile state and didn't want to see anyone. I wanted to help him preserve his dignity but I also knew that I needed to invite friends and colleagues to stop by so that they could say goodbye.
Even though I found the end of The Notebook depressing as hell and I cried and cried, there was some peace in the Romeo and Juliet ending. At the end of Amour, one of my girlfriends joked that at least Jean-Louis Trintignant's character hadn't killed the bird. All joking aside, the conclusion of Amour is dark and ambiguous. It is most certainly a movie where you have to find your own meaning. Despite the shocking turn of events in the last act, I walked out of the theater thinking about the beautiful flowers ceremoniously placed around his wife's head on the pillow. And for me, the misguided bird sent back into the streets of Paris, was a poetic symbol of the wife's spirit who was at long last, free.