All work and no play makes caregivers…well…exhausted! Because life is better lived with some sense of balance, family caregivers must strive to include tranquil and enjoyable moments in their often hectic caregiving schedule.

Diversions are a great way to recharge, to take a break from the daily demands of caregiving.  Why not pick up a book or call a friend to see a movie?  If you cannot remember when you last did either, you are way overdue for a break!

Thank you, Mary Otte, for contributing the review of the movie “Amour.”  Surely, family caregivers will identify with it.  Enjoy!

 

 

Amour (2012) Review

by Mary Otte

 
Amour is a sparse, beautiful, heart wrenching film that captures one’s senses from its opening, yet also tears eyes from screen in moments of induced feelings that teeter on the double edges of violent anticipation and crushing empathy.

Georges and Anne are a Parisian couple in their early 80’s who’ve led rich, cultured lives. Retired music and piano teachers, we first see the couple together at a concert hall, where a former pupil is the featured soloist. Director Haneke is known for not using soundtracks or scores in his films, but the opening chords and measures of the soloist’s apt playing set the mood of appreciation and beauty.

Those feelings of calm pleasure are interrupted when the couple returns home to find someone has tried to break into their apartment, “They used a screwdriver or something like that…it doesn’t look very professional…” comments Georges, and convinces Anne to wait until morning to call the superintendent. Clearly still shaken, Anne retires to the bedroom without a nightcap, commenting with pride on how well her former prodigy had played.

Later that night, Georges awakens to Anne sitting up straight in bed, staring into space. Though she insists all is well, a second similar incident the next morning at breakfast catapults the film into what it truly encompasses: the shock, heartache and trials of caregiving for a spouse who has suddenly taken very ill.

Terrified by hospitals, when Anne comes home in a wheelchair after her first ‘attack,’ she is yet cognitively bright and full of pride. She makes Georges promise to never let her go back to a hospital again. The type of difficult discussion that is so often left until such an emergency occurs.

As Anne’s condition deteriorates, the couple’s bonds become strained. Without the use of emotional devices and theatrics, Haneke leads us through shards of life’s winter with crushing reality: the awkwardness of friends and relatives visiting, the ups and downs of in home nurses, the humiliation of helplessness, incontinence and loss of cognition. It seems to be hinted that Georges himself is suffering from an early stage of dementia, though it’s never mentioned. Then again, distraction, memory lapses, terrifying dreams and even mild hallucinations could just as easily be attributed to his world crumbling around him.

Their grown daughter and her British husband are also professional musicians living abroad and constantly travel with their music company. They have an estranged relationship with their grown son, a strained relationship with each other and their visits feel stressful. It is difficult to sympathize with the daughter at times, but this is only another underscoring of Haneke’s brilliant use of understatement, while inviting the viewer to ask questions about what each character is truly experiencing, as well as what those interpretations mean to them personally.

Amour won Haneke his second Palme d’Or in four years and the movie and staff have already won or been nominated for dozens of awards worldwide, including the 2013 Oscars for Best Achievement in Directing, Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (Austria), Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Emmanuelle Riva (Anna), and Best Writing–Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Haneke). Riva, a career actress since 1957, is the first woman that Haneke has directed into an Oscar nomination. Her performance, as well as that of Jean-Louis Trintignant, is beyond stunning, with incredibly varied states, emotions, and flashbacks to healthier times.

Palliative care, a spouse slipping away, even raw takes on aging are rarely the main focus of cinema, and, as far as mobility and incontinence products go, these were perhaps the most highbrow appearances of adult diapers and mobility aids to have ever taken center stage on the silver screen—in all of their glory and lack thereof. Stigmas related to these difficult topics were refreshingly not glazed over or masked with humor.

A resource that may have (retroactively) eased the experience of protagonist Georges, whose coping mechanisms went heart deep, but lacked in preparedness, is aptly named PREPARE: an intuitive website that helps walk individuals and families through the steps to make sure their wishes are kept should they become too ill to speak for themselves. PREPARE is written at a 5th grade level, the videos are not directed by the infamously morose Haneke, and it’s easy to use no matter the level of computer competency.

Strongest impressions after having left the theater: life is both long and short, lovely and repulsive, lonely and shared, and, above all, to be lived to its fullest: with amour.

Amour (Love), 2012
Michael Haneke
Runtime: 2 hours 7 minutes
Estimated DVD release date: April 2013

 

 

About the author

Mary Otte is a staff writer for Parentgiving.com, a comprehensive website serving adults, seniors and their caregivers via thousands of products, hundreds of informative articles, timely news flashes, and a wealth of practical tools that help allow persons to age well at home and maintain independence.