THE BLOG
02/21/2013 05:30 pm ET Updated Apr 23, 2013

Why Michael Haneke's Amour Is Not a Depressing Movie

There's no use crying over spilt milk, or a life well-lived, for that matter. Michael Haneke's Amour, a French-language film nominated for five Oscars, chronicles an aging French couple struggling with the wife's slew of physical and mental health problems. The film starts with the most depressing sequence of the entire film: police officers and firemen break into a house and stumble upon Emmanuelle Riva's Anne's decayed corpse. The film then cuts to black, displaying the title: Amour, or "Love," which is exactly what follows.

Through the prism of the relationship between Anne and Jean-Louis Trintignant's George, we truly see how much each spouse cares for the other. Anne experiences complications from an initial stroke and then from a botched surgery on a blocked artery, which leaves her paralyzed on her right side. George promises Anne that he won't ever put her into hospital care again and holds his promise even after she experiences a second stroke. Battling Anne's declining health, a nurse who mistreats Anne, and a property-obsessed daughter ready to throw her mother into a home at any moment's notice, George and Anne's love endures. Call me crazy, but Amour is the perfect Valentine's Day movie for married couples, and one that doesn't insult the audience's intelligence. Too bad people probably saw the new Die Hard instead.

Actually, the new Bruce Willis vehicle is not an arbitrary comparison to Haneke's film. The difference between A Good Day to Die Hard and Amour goes beyond my assumption that Willis speaks subpar French. In light of increasing gun violence, many blame Hollywood's action movies for promoting a gun culture that prevents us from having reasonable assault weapons bans, and at worst, one that indirectly causes shootings. While the evidence for the latter is questionable at best, films like Die Hard do glorify guns, yes, but more importantly (for the purposes of a comparison to Amour) treat human life as completely dispensable. Amour is refreshingly humanistic, showing the lengths people go through and sacrifices people make to help the ones they love.

It's clear that Haneke did in fact channel his own life in making Amour, a film that couldn't be more different in terms of philanthropy than his awful English-language remake of Funny Games. If not for Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, Amour would have been 2012's best film. I'll be rooting for Haneke and Riva on Oscar Sunday. Will they win? Likely not. Just as of four years ago, however, it was perhaps equally unlikely that a man whose new film was about the origins of Nazism would later make a piece of art that doesn't agonize over death, but rather one that celebrates life. That's amore, indeed.

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