“Amour” Is a Painfully Real Octogenarian Horror Film

Speaking of boring films, Amour is one helluva piece of work. While films about death can be engaging and even eye opening, Michael Haneke’s film is arduously true to life. The film follows an octogenarian couple facing the end of their lives in their French flat. After Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke, her husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) must care for her as she slowly dies. This tests his intense love for her, causing him to lose his mind as hers deteriorates.

OPCC_01_AMOUR_8.14_Layout 1Both Riva and Trintignant deliver powerful performances that make the film feel even more painstakingly real. Haneke’s writing and direction are also vividly realistic. But this film feels more like a horror film for audiences over the age of 60. Perfectly capturing this couple dying of old age, it serves almost as a warning of what’s to come in most of our lives (and most likely hitting too close to home for the aforementioned demographic). It’s enough to make you want to kill yourself at age 50.

Because this is a foreign-langue film, shots dwell languorously on the minutiae of their lives. Do we need a 5-minute shot of Georges clipping flowers to know what he is doing? Most of this film is comprised of this painful realism, increasing the inevitable horror of old age. As strokes continue to ravage Anne’s mind, can you really blame her for begging Georges to end her life?

This year’s batch of Best Pictures is bloated with excessively long films (like Lincoln, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty); and Amour fits right in with them. Its extensive length causes you to almost forget Riva’s compelling performance or Haneke’s brilliance in telling such a “normal” story. However, Amour is a horrific film to sit through and a horrific glimpse into old age.

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Headhunters (2011 Film)

Based on Jo Nesbo’s novel of the same name, Headhunters makes for an equally thrilling film about deception and distrust. Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) is a corporate headhunter (and part-time art thief) who is unknowingly thrown into a game of manipulation, which results in the death of many. In his attempts to create a perfect life for his wife Diana (Synnove Macody Lund)—he’ll do anything for her except give her a child—he finds himself spending above his means and so he steals art and sells it on the black market to make extra money.

When a legendary painting is discovered in the house of his new client, Clas Greve (Game of Thrones’ Jaime Lannister—Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Roger can’t help but attempt to steal it. From that setup alone, you can tell that not all will go well (and it does not). But there is more going on around Roger and the people in his life than he could even have imagined. What’s great about this thriller is that you know something is going to go wrong, but it’s never quite what you expect.

The film almost never strays from the novel, which says more about Nesbo as a writer than about the screenwriters Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg. Nesbo’s tightly written thriller was easy for the screenwriters to adapt into a tightly written script. In the film they do downplay Roger’s obsession with his “perfect” hair, so when he’s forced to shave his head, it comes off as more of a complete emotional breakdown instead of one based on vanity. They also leave out the complex rules for interviewing that Roger is as obsessed with as he is with his hair. Both omissions just allow the film to flow more fluidly.

Just like in the novel, this film never lets up in the action and suspense. Seeing these moments come alive can be truly horrifying however—all the blood especially reminds you how gruesome this story is. The best part about Headhunters is that even if you’ve read it, there are so many twists and turns that you’ll still find surprises when viewing it.

And if, at the end, it feels like the story wraps up into too neat of a box, it’s because that is the only way to wrap up the story threads and provide a satisfying ending for our protagonist. The book does a more believable job wrapping up the story if only because it goes into more specific detail than the film, but the film doesn’t require as much specification for a succinct denouement.

There is just something so satisfying in watching these Scandinavian crime thrillers (see also: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Yossi

It’s been 10 years since Eytan Fox’s Yossi & Jagger (a film which I am remiss to say I have not yet seen despite being a big Fox fan), and we find our hero Yossi lost. He’s still grief-stricken from losing his boyfriend (10 years earlier) and has major body image issues (he definitely qualifies as a bear in the gay community). But Yossi is too afraid to come out to anyone at work (he’s a cardiologist) and is thus forced to suffer through awkward heterosexual moments like a flirtatious girl nurse and a weird bar bathroom threeway.

However, when his dead lover’s mother ends up as one of his patients, he seeks her and her husband out and confesses his feelings for their son. It makes for a very awkward scene, but I can see that there is relief in Yossi from getting this off his chest. And, once he’s become somewhat unburdened (lets not forget the body image issue—he’s too afraid to even get a massage), he gives a ride to a group of stranded young soldiers, who no doubt remind him of his past in the army. From there is becomes it an unsteady journey for Yossi who learns to loosen up and love himself (and maybe find love in return).

The acting in the film is terrific, and I could easily relate with Yossi (who hasn’t had body issues?). And when he meets young soldier Tom (who has major Tom-Hardy lips) I couldn’t help but root for them to get together. I’m actually amazed at how much of Yossi’s shit Tom puts up with. But watching actor Ohad Knoller’s journey as Yossi was spectacular. His portrayal of this confused and embarrassed gay man is one that almost any gay man could sympathize with.

Eytan Fox is a superb filmmaker (I love Walk on Water), and this is definitely a film worth checking out (as long as you can handle subtitles) if you’re close to the TriBeCa Film Festival.