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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Amour

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva star in a scene from the movie "Amour."
If "Amour" (Sony Classics) makes you want to check in on your parents or grandparents, it's done its job. Late plot developments, however, make this a film even mature viewers will need to approach with caution and prudence.

The French-language drama is meant to provoke discussion and to be disturbing, despite its generally sensitive portrayal of enduring love expressed by an elderly couple. Nothing about either aging or debilitating infirmity is sanitized or whisked away.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are retired music teachers, both in their 80s, living in Paris. A series of strokes causes Anne to lose control of her right side, then renders her incontinent, then robs her of speech. After that, she begins to refuse nourishment.

Everything takes place in their apartment because after her first hospital visit, Anne made Georges promise not to put her there again, and he tries to get by with home nurses. Confronted by their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), about why he doesn't consider a hospice, Georges replies, "What they do there, we can do here. I promised her that."

But at what price to his own sanity? The film's stately pacing doesn't conceal the damage to either husband or wife.

Writer-director Michael Haneke doesn't make subtle movies. He directs raw, unbending statements on moral behavior, as he did in his last film, "The White Ribbon" (2009), which showed the roots of Nazi cruelty in Germany.

The act-of-madness resolution in "Amour" does not comport with Catholic teaching—far from it, in fact. But the objectively sinful behavior portrayed takes place in the context of increasing desperation. Unsupported by the comforting milieu of a hospice and devoid of faith, the character involved is overwhelmed.

In "The White Ribbon," Haneke was quite cruel toward German Lutheranism, portraying it strictly as a form of oppression. So the absence of religion here may not be altogether a negative development.

Death and dying are experiences focused on by all faiths, but rarely addressed—at least honestly—in film. Well-grounded audience members can interpret the film using their own prisms of faith, as well as their own experiences with the grim subject matter.

Subtitles.

The film contains mature themes and objectively immoral actions, fleeting upper female nudity, a single use of profanity and an instance of rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Jeanne Jugan: 
		<p>Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.</p>
		<p>When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).</p>
		<p>After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.</p>
		<p>Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. </p>
		<p>By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009. </p>
		<p> </p>
American Catholic Blog The people who know God well—the hermits, the prayerful people, those who risk everything to find God—always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found to be an abusive father or a manipulative mother, but a lover who is more than we dared hope for.

 
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