Sunday, December 21, 2014

Michael Haneke talks about Oscar-nominated Amour

The Austrain filmmaker's meditation on old age is up for five Academy Awards, including best picture and best foreign-language film

Michael Haneke talks about Oscar-nominated Amour

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play a couple still deeply in love.
Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play a couple still deeply in love.

Michael Haneke is sitting in a windowless room, in the lower floor of a Toronto hotel. It’s small, it’s confining, and it seems an altogether appropriate setting. In Amour, the Austrian filmmaker’s emotionally jolting portrait of an elderly Parisian couple – played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva – almost all the action takes place within the walls of the retired musicians’ apartment.

Like all of Haneke’s films – Funny Games, Cache, White Ribbon, among them – Amour has moments that leave themselves open to interpretation. What’s with that pigeon that flies in through an open window? The police that knock down the apartment door? There are doubts, ambiguity. As a meditation on ageing and loss, it resonates deeply.

“I try to make films that I would like to see,” explains the director. Amour won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May, was a big hit at the Toronto International Film Festival and is nominated for five Academy Awards (best picture, best foreign language film, best actress, best director and original screenplay). “When a film is too obvious and too simple, I am bored…. And especially with a film like this, I think it’s not possible for me to make it in a cheap way, in a sentimental way. That was the big challenge for this film -- to avoid all this kind of sentimentality and misery. This is a subject that is so important, and it touches all of us, so you have to operate on a certain level.”

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays, and his blog, On Movies Online, can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Steven Rea's previous blog posts can be found here. Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at srea@phillynews.com.

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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