On Love and Euthanasia

Love… Happiness… Time… Life… More loaded words to give further reason to use ellipses… and then some questions. What would you do for love? Would you sacrifice your time, your happiness, your sanity, for it? If the answer is yes, than I highly recommend the Austrian film Amour. It will leave you with all the heartache of a years long love affair now broken and withered but without memory of those pesky, happy times.

Be forewarned, this is not a review. You can find plenty for this film (nearly all unanimous in its favor) all over the web. This, dear reader, is a rant.

Amour stays with you like a toothache caused by too much French garlic liquor. You can still feel it, can still smell it on your pillow, all of which only serves as realization that you really ought to do the laundry.

As you’d written previously, here, you’re particularly disheartened because you were dreaming of a night with Heidi Klum when all of a sudden Amour stormed into your bedroom and whisked her away.

Even now, looking up at the last paragraph, you see that once again you’re writing in the second person (so traumatized you are) and can’t switch back. Like a person floating in a sea of sorrow, no longer clutching the life raft but attempting still to hold on to something anyway and grasping only salt water, you’re still uncomfortable with the idea of the “I” that is you, and in order to revive the thought of her you ignore the fact that she’s gone, ignorant that you’re drowning anyway.

Amour won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film last week so you assumed it must be good. This is an award after all which has been given in recent years to such masterpieces as The Lives of Others, The Secret in Their Eyes, and not given to Incendies, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or After the Wedding, all of which you assumed meant that Amour would be tantamount to a narrative orgasm. If so, it is one so startlingly premature that it doesn’t make it through the first five minutes before making you want to fall asleep.

And lest your readers be wary, you can handle supposedly “intelligent” cinema. The aforementioned films are evidence enough that you’re not one of those who goes to the cinema merely to watch box office dreck like Transformers or The Avengers. You’re not a Republican after all and accordingly want a film that makes you think.

You love Austria, the country where the film was produced, though for the film’s entire running time (slithering time would be more appropriate) the characters speak in French, and various other unintelligible gurgling.

You even sort of liked director Michael Haneke’s last film, The White Ribbon, despite it being advertised as a kind of Nazi story without having a single Nazi in it… unless those nasty children grow up to become the Nazis, which you suppose makes sense…

What doesn’t make sense to you is Haneke directing a film arrogantly called Love, supposedly intending to speak on the subject to the masses, and then making it feel more like it ought to have been the sequel to his 2005 film Funny Games. This one then would have been more aptly titled Funny Games 2: Funny Games borrowed from the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Memos, or, to borrow Haneke’s presumptuous titling, simply Torture. This film is no more about love than The White Ribbon was about an actual white ribbon and Funny Games was about actual funny games. Okay, yes, we assume that the nice old couple in the film do actually love each other despite being French and smelling strongly of cheese and many would say that this love is found in the devotion the husband shows for his wife after she suffers her debilitating stroke and later when he smothers her with a pillow (uh oh, spoiler alert).

All of which brings you around to thinking about euthanasia. You support it, as most caring people do, and you’re glad that he smothered her in the end with that pillow but if he really, truly cared, couldn’t he have done that about 7 hours earlier? I mean, why did he have to wait so long? All of which posits the question, is euthanasia still euthanasia if you Minority Report it?

As mentioned above, the film’s liberal message is one that you already agree with: people should have the right to die if they so wish. It’s just that the message here isn’t delivered so well. A much better pro-euthanasia film was the 2004 Spanish film The Sea Inside starring Javier Bardem and based on the real life case of Ramon Sampedro, a terminally ill man who fought for the right to die only to have his case continually rejected by the courts. That movie had a joy and spirit that this one never did. You wanted Ramon Sampedro to die because it’s what he wanted, needed even. You cared so much for him that you didn’t want him to have to suffer anymore. In Amour you care so little about Emmanuelle Riva’s character that, while you still recognize her desire to die, you want her character’s expiration date expedited because she has just spent the last hour and forty five minutes groaning on a bed when in reality you’re the one groaning on the bed, forced to watch till the end to see what all the fuss is about.

You get that this is Michael Haneke’s passion project, you really do, but you just wish that passion had culminated in something good. If nothing else, perhaps he ought to try his hand at making the exact opposite film and calling it Haine (“Hate” in French). If Amour is any indication of how that one will be, then I’m already in love with it.

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2 comments

  1. Hi ! I can’t help but add some French food for thought to your post. I’ve seen the film, felt bored most of the time but decided to suffer through it (as you said, there had to be something to it), got frustrated that there wasn’t the slightest hint of love between those two… But then I felt tears coming up when he cut the flowers for her, and I am a woman who trusts her guts. And that was the exact moment when the title made sense to me! Now there is something you have to know about French grammar. As Emmanuelle Riva reminded the audience when she got her award for her politically correctly-called “performance”, “Amour” in the film is not a feeling but almost like an additional character. As you may not be aware, French nouns always have an article : le, la, les for definite articles (either “the” in English, or zero article for mass-nouns) / un, une, des for indefinite or partitive articles (the latter corresponding to “a”/”an”/ and zero article for plural in English). interestingly, the film title is not “L’amour” (love, the feeling) but “Amour” (love as if personified, because in French only proper nouns have zero article).
    So here is my point: the title can’t be translated without making a huge translation mistake. I didn’t read any reviews (couldn’t care less honestly) but I think the film is not about the inner feeling of loving someone and not wanting them to suffer, but about that thing, almost like a person, which gives you enough energy to go on and cut those flowers. Also, maybe the reason why it takes so long before he smothers her is because it takes him so long to finally be ready to suffer more than her.
    Given the energy and time and suffering you invested in watching, analysing, commenting on it, I’d say you truly loved the film, only you were disappointed that it didn’t love you back!
    Oh and another funny thing, just as I’ been reading your last post, my fb newsfeed just told me about a rabbit that is able to swim and that is called.. Heidi. now wait. is she trying to swim back to her seal?? (sorry, had to make the joke).

    1. Miss Berlin! How are you? Still teaching?? Well, first things first, thank you so very much for reading and, secondly, thank you for actually sharing your thoughts! Not knowing French (yet… though I’ll consider your reply something of a first lesson), that little translation error completely slipped by me and, as you say so eloquently above, it does add an extra layer of emotion and feeling to the film. In fact, reading your review leads me to thinking it was a far better movie than it actually was, but I’ll chalk that up to the power of your insight more so than to that of the film’s portrayal. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to read your thoughts on this film and I’m glad that this scene convinced you of the film’s sincerity. Perhaps I really am disappointed that it didn’t love me enough to reveal itself in the same way as it did to you, though I still refuse to admit to loving it… perhaps though, it’s a reverse case of Stockholm Syndrome. Thanks also for the joke, and the French lesson 🙂

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