Thursday, January 3, 2013
Georges and Anne are a retired couple in their late 70s or 80s. One day, Anne experiences a 'blackout' but returns back to normal. The doctors decide to operate her to relieve a blocked artery, but the surgery goes wrong and Anne's right hand and leg are left partially paralyzed. Georges is nursing her at their home. At first, her mind is still sharp, but with time she suffers from another stroke and is left half-conscious, mumbling gibberish all the time. Their daughter is shocked at Anne's deteriorating state. Seeing she doesn't have the will to live anymore, Georges kills Anne, leaves a note and commits suicide.
The movie that placed director Michael Haneke among only a handful of people who won the Golden Palm in Cannes twice, "Love" is a good and ambitious, but dreadfully pessimistic and heavy existential drama that is difficult to sit through. "Love" could be played in a double bill with Imamura's equally fierce, likewise Golden Palm winning drama "The Ballad of Narayama" since both bravely tackle the taboo topic of helplessness at old age, contemplating about the mood of the last days of the elderly. In that sense, "Love" is a minimalistic 'kammerspiel', playing over 95 % of its time only inside the apartment of the two elderly protagonists - the old man who takes care of his increasingly ill wife - which makes their home seem like a trap after a while, yet also shows true love among a couple, after all the youth and physical beauty left them. Several harsh, grim details (Georges has to help Anne stand up from the toilet seat because her right leg is paralyzed; a grumpy nurse who half-heartedly puts diapers on Anne) just make the mood even paler, but after a while such monotone, ultra-depressive approach starts to become a tad too syrupy and melodramatic, regardless of its realistic setting. Haneke deliberately avoided any kind of playful or inventive touches to show an unglamourous, unpolished reality, yet the movie is slightly one-dimensional, so one has to conclude with George's words at one point when he talks to his daughter - "This is a humiliating and embarrassing situation we are in. And there's simply not much else to see."