Austrian auteur Michael Haneke returns to French language cinema this year with his new film Amour (Love, 2012), which will premiere in competition at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. Haneke has long been a favourite with the festival – The Piano Teacher won the Grand Prix back in 2002. He has since won the Palme d’Or once before – in 2009 with his last film The White Ribbon (2009), a beautiful yet bleak portrayal of a pre-war German rural community – arguably his masterpiece.
In Amour, Isabelle Huppert (who also picked up an award for her role in The Piano Teacher in 2002), joins veteran French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as the daughter of married couple Anna (Riva) and Georges (Trintigant), who are both retired piano teachers.
Anna is also involved in music but lives abroad, so when Anna has a stroke which paralyses her down one side, all the ageing couple have for support is each other and the resilience of their love, which is put to a new test. In some ways the film has a familiar ring – Haneke often dissects relationships via couples who are almost always called Anna and Georges (or some variation thereof). However, the ages of the protagonists do perhaps mark this as a significant move into new territory.
Although Haneke has often been accused of a bleak misanthropy – the two versions of Funny Games (1997, 2007) being the most cited examples – his films aspire to an uncompromising vision of the world, and he also promotes film as something more than just a subspecies of entertainment. In so doing, Haneke has (as previously mentioned) proved a popular choice with past Cannes juries and has established himself on the European circuit as one of the most intellectual, rigorous and challenging of contemporary directors. To say that his new film is eagerly awaited might be an inapt turn of phrase, so perhaps it is better to say we are looking forward (with trepidation) to the austere Austrian’s next lesson.
Amour is due for release in UK cinemas on 16 November, 2012, courtesy of Artificial Eye.
The 65th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 16-27 May, 2012. For more of our Cannes 2012 coverage, simply follow this link.