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Once the clock rewinds to the moment that Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) has a seizure at the kitchen table, it's pretty obvious that Austrian director Michael Haneke's intention is to reveal the depths of the emotional bond between Anne and her husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) rather than tease any suspicions about Anne's death.
Interspersed with occasional references to the elderly couple's life as music teachers, Amour is heavy going as Georges honours Anne's wish that he care for her, resisting their daughter's belief that her mother would be better off in care.
Crafted around a sequence of excruciatingly long takes in their tired Paris apartment, Haneke trusts that the audience will sit with him while he wallows in the depressing reality gripping Anne and Georges.
Taking on the intense dedication required to care for Anne, Jean-Louis Trintignant's brilliant portrayal of a man having to watch the love of his life fading away before his eyes is astounding, though unrelentingly grim.
A beautiful portrait of ageing, respect and downright stubborn determination, Amour is a brilliantly nuanced observational portrait of love and death that lingers on long after the final image fades to black.
Best thing: The performances of Trintignant and Riva.
Worst thing: The gratuitous use of never-ending wide shots.
See it with: Anyone not seeking a feel good pick-me-up.
By Mark Orton.
Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud
4 stars (out of 5)