Director: Michael Haneke
Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Emmanuelle Riva), Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Language Film
This movie adopts a very patient and slow style, making for quite a hard watch. Some will feel rewarded by the end, some will not. It follows an old, married couple in their eighties after wife Anne, portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva in a great performance, suffers from a stroke. She is paralyzed on her right side after a surgery, and is left under the care of her husband Georges, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. The rest of the movie takes place entirely within the confines of their home; people go in and out of the house, including their daughter, but for the most part, the movie focuses on their couple and their personal frustrations. Anne is very adamant about not wanting to be sent back to the hospital or put into a nursing home; Georges feels distress from taking care of her, and her occasional resistance to care. The camera is still for the majority of the movie; takes are long and very dialogue-driven. There is a very honest quality to both the writing and the acting; the dialogue is very elaborate and reveals everything about the characters’ feelings and backgrounds. This approach will not appeal to everyone, though. While I never found myself necessarily bored, I felt just as frustrated at the characters will watching them; perhaps this was the intention. I liked when we first caught a glimpse of this style, in a in early scene where our couple watches a musical performance at a theater. The camera is still pointing at the audience; it doesn’t focus on the two characters, instead making them an ordinary part of the audience. One thing I will say that I appreciate about this style is the sound. Sound is an element of film that we all take granted for. Utilizing this still approach to filming, you notice all of the little gulps when Anne drinks her water, a door creeks, the whirring of an electric wheelchair, etcetera. This movie has themes of life while facing death; they talk about the older parts of their lives, but not in a cliched sentimental way. A pigeon that finds itself within the house is a recurring element of the movie; what the pigeon symbolizes is up for interpretation, but its presence in the film makes more sense as the plot progresses. As mentioned, Riva has a great performance as the struggling Anne, whose mental capacity falters as the movie progresses. But overlooked was Trintignant as her husband Georges. While I was sometimes unsympathetic towards his character due to his attitude towards his wife, it is still a great and honest performance.
It’s a patient movie; some will find it intriguing, some will be frustrated as its two lead characters. However, the leads from the two actors are great.