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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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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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