Waking up drenched in your own piss has got to be one of the most unbearable ways of being reminded that you're too old to take care of yourself anymore. It's humiliating, yet a flagrant depiction of the most unromanticized reality that defines Michael Haneke's Amour.
Amour is, yes, a story about "old people in love." But it deserves to be recognized for more than a mainstream simplification. It tells the story of a reality that we all know exists and how the nature of a love that is true holds up against a world where everything seems to be growing more and more strained.
Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Gorges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are in their 80s when Anne suffers from a stroke. She only asks her husband for one thing when she returns from the hospital: "No more hospitals." But the film is not sad because we know she will die; it is poignant because we must experience the process.
The scenes noticeably drag on. Throughout the film there are long shots of Gorges sitting in a mustard-yellow armchair and Anne moaning gibberish in her bed. We never see the outside, but, then again, what's the point? They are both stuck in their apartment -- she at the end of her life, and he with only her to live for.
In one scene, Gorges forces Anne to drink. When he finally gets the water into her mouth, with a sour expression, she spits the water back into his face. He slaps her, and then he cries apologetically. His love is the anger, the frustration of watching her relinquish the will to fight to go on. How dare she starve herself to make her death come more quickly and leave him to be on his own... but is her life really worth living? Does she get any value out of having her husband help her up after she falls out of bed, or having a nurse -- a stranger -- bathe her? Whatever joy that resonates in the picturesque paintings that decorate the house is long gone from the people who inhabit it.
Amour would not win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The story is heavy, and its conclusion is not fulfilling enough to make sense of it all. However, that being said, it deserves the nomination. It's a raw film that demands superb acting and doesn't disappoint in that regard. It does a good job telling a story that, frankly, many people don't want to watch.