1. From the @Michael_Haneke Twitter stream, 03/02/2013 21:56:
if u watch amour bakwards its about a woman who builds up the kourage 2 stand up agenst her controling husbnd lol
That's certainly how I read it: love as a system of control.
2. Is Michael Haneke a genre director? The DVDs get shelved under "World Cinema" or "Arthouse": horror might suit them better. His films are always about the terrible thing that you can see approaching, the tension between the desire to know and the reflex that makes you look away. But conventional horror films offer a get-out clause: vampires? Zombies? Leather-masked cannibals? These aren't real, or at least not probable. The horrors in Amour are: Death. Marriage. The lavatory and the stray pigeon.
2a. You can escape marriage, of course, through divorce. One consolation from Amour: I've half-escaped the particular awfulness that faces Georges in the film. Whoever I'm with when the dying starts, it won't be a whole lifetime I'm losing.
3. The film has one moment of escape. Late at night, a knock: Georges opens the door: nobody is there: he wanders out on to the landing, around the corner — no, you want to yell, go back: here his feet splash ankle-deep in floodwater: he starts to turn back: from behind, a hand steals over his mouth and begins to pull: Georges' eyes widen: and then he is awake: it was a dream! Of course, you're only off the hook if you believe this dream isn't going to come true. (Cf. the sequence in The White Ribbon where a little boy goes downstairs at night looking for his sister: in each case, you are given very little information about what may be waiting, but all the same, you know.)
4. This isn't the first film where a relationship is confined to an apartment in Paris: how does it change the film if we assume this is the same apartment as Last Tango in Paris? Or if we found out that one of their neighbours is called Bartlebooth?
5. Georges and Anne are musicians: Schubert, Beethoven — the serious stuff. Richard Brody, on the New Yorker blog: "Would the ostensible mercy killing appear less justified if the couple were longtime fans of yé-yé or Plastic Bertrand rather than Schubert...?" Brody is hung up on the idea that Haneke is trying to justify a mercy killing: my take was that Georges kills Anne out of pique and frustration as much as mercy. But in any case, Brody misses the point: not that listening to Schubert makes them better people, but that it doesn't. We flatter ourselves, us Radio 3 listeners, that the music has depths that Plastic Bertrand doesn't aspire to, that Great Art offers consolation in the face of eternity. Georges and Anne find that it isn't up to the job.
6. Anne is alarmed at the prospect of a visit from her English son-in-law: "His British sense of humour is acceptable in small doses." Now imagine the British remake of Amour — Geoffrey Palmer a shoo-in for George; and I quite fancy Wendy Craig for Anne (but it would end up being Judi Dench). It's grim, but it's also hilarious. OR it's an animation by Nick Park.
6a. Interesting that the young people — their daughter, Anne's old pupil — are all heading for London: it's evidently a place where things happen; Paris isn't.
7. Now imagine the Hollywood remake: Frank Langella for George, Diane Keaton for Anne. It's grim, but it's also heartwarming and life-affirming. They dance round the kitchen to the sound of The Who, "My Generation".
8. The picture at the top of this post: if you want to be literal, it is Georges and Anne — she has just had a stroke, and he is trying to see where she has gone. Otherwise, it's Haneke and the viewer: she's trying to look away, but he won't let her.
9. What you bring to a film: my parents. My mother died 12 years ago, slowly. Unlike Anne, she lost control of her body, never her mind, though from the outside the difference is not always obvious. My father (who is still around: hello, Brian) took care of her; until Amour I had not dared to think too hard about what that means in any detail. (Writing that, I notice that the phrase "to take care of" can have a quite nasty meaning in English, though I don't suppose that entered Haneke's calculations.) Towards the end, Georges tells the oblivious Anne a story from his boyhood, about going away to some sort of summer camp, and being kept behind for hours after meals because he wouldn't eat — that's me!, I thought. That happened to me at school all the time! And then, Georges goes on, it turned out he had diphtheria, and had to be quarantined: and that was my mother, in the autumn of 1939 — shut up for months, seeing her family through glass. Afterwards, she had to relearn walking.
So my reaction to the film — briefly: appalled admiration — was coloured by an irrational sense that it was mine, that I could understand what Haneke was getting at more clearly than other people. But perhaps that is the point of cinema, of being alone in the dark, making you believe that these people come from inside your own head.