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.”