Country: France, Germany, Austria
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Watched this newly-crowned Palme d’Or winner in KVIFF, from Michael Haneke, whose two successive Palme d’Or laurels in Cannes (another is THE WHITE RIBBON, 2009) have propelled him into an unsurpassable status as the most acclaimed auteur in our era.
Pronouncedly contrary to THE WHITE RIBBON’s before-WWI village complex and Black & White austerity, this contemporary modern tale of aging and death has a rather tiny-scaled tableaux, most of its scenes are exclusively enclosed in the senior couple’s Paris apartment, and the tempo is dragged prolonged to cater for a detailed depiction of the deterioration of the wife’s health condition and the husband’s long-haul chore as her caregiver which finesses superbly the process from responsibility to liability.
The film generates multitudes of cogent reverberations to build a deeply poignant aura with miraculously arranged scenes, some of which even could be fairly disturbing (namely one in a dream world and one in the real world) and some of which seem to overstay its welcome in some skeptical extent.
From a more award-hyping slant, the two French octogenarian veterans, Jean-Louis Trintignant (from A MAN AND A WOMAN, 1966; Z, 1969; THE CONFORMIST, 1970) and Emmanuelle Riva (from HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR 1959, LEON MORIN PRIEST 1961) should and will be garlanded with more plaudits both for the excellence in this film and their under-appreciated career trajectory (for Riva particularly, a heartbreaking rendition which exhausts one’s thorough dedication as her disease ). Isabelle Huppert, on the other hand, precisely restrained in dealing with the vulnerable emotions as the devastated but helpless daughter.
It’s definitely a tough film to wallow in in spite of its superbness in almost every angle and its acuity in reflecting the status quo of the awkward recognition and inadequate measures on geriatrics (which if we are lucky enough, we will all inevitably encounter). The ending of a fictional vanishing into the void is a well-concocted outlet, but as we all know, most of the time, life is much crueler.