The title is French for love. The movie itself, indisputably 2012’s best foreign-language film and an Oscar winner, defines what love is. It does it the hard way. No sex, drugs or rock & roll. Just two people in their eighties offering each other total commitment. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are retired music teachers living comfortably in Paris, with occasional visits from their daughter (Isabelle Huppert). Then Anne suffers two strokes. Riva, her face a study of age in agony, is magnificent. Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke achieves levels of intimacy previously unknown in his work. What happens next in his unique and unforgettable film must be left for you to discover. These two glam stars of French cinema – Riva in 1959’s Hiroshima Mon Amour and Trintignant in 1966’s A Man and a Woman – give performances of breathtaking power and beauty. Prepare for an emotional wipeout.
This has to be the best film Haneke has ever made. It is gruellingly unsentimental, but unlike all of his other films, there is warmth, tenderness and genuine humanity to be found here. We are greeted by two highly intelligent people, who have been and remain deeply in love, and we are challenged now – not to watch the beginning of this relationship, but its end. Georges and Anne are not perfect human beings; they become frustrated, even angry. The wounds that each can inflict on the other, knowing each other inside out, hit the audience like a punch to the gut. It is part of the searing authenticity of the film that makes the more tender moments even more special.
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Awards: Oscar winner and forty-eight other wins including the Palme D’Or plus thirty-eight nominations.
Michael Haneke | France | 2012 | 127 mins | 12a
Weighted vote 82.6%