Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A movie for hospice (French, subtitles)

My wife and I go to the movies several times each month. There are several local independent theaters to choose from, including our favorite – the six-screen West Newton Cinema.

I pay close attention to how movies treat end of life, and have never seen aging and death portrayed with such understated power and honesty as in ‘Amour,’ (‘Love’), the French film by Michael Haneke.

This is the story of Anne and Georges, retired music teachers living in Paris. Anne suffers a stroke that leaves her right side paralyzed, and Georges cares for her, mostly alone.

All of the action takes place within their apartment. It’s not possible to know how much time passes as Anne declines, but any hospice professional will recognize the trajectory.

Each scene is filmed simply, and unfolds without hurry. The dialogue is spare. When their daughter Eva, a musician who lives in London, asks Georges what will happen next as Anne continues to fail, he replies, “Things will go on as they have done up until now. They'll go from bad to worse. Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over.”

That notion, “things will go on,” is what makes ‘Amour’ such a powerful and important film for anybody working in hospice. We visit, but then we leave, and when we leave the patients and families have no alternative but to face each moment as it unfolds. We recognize, even if we don’t clearly say, that “one day it will all be over.”

We also briefly watch each of two nurses who join Georges in helping care for Anne. As in the rest of the movie, every aspect of these encounters is completely credible to anyone familiar with the situations depicted – not as would be portrayed in a documentary, but in the more important and deeper sense of artistic truth.

Because, in the end, ‘Amour’ is a work of art, and only art can touch us so deeply.

More (including trailers)…

Amour at Sony Classic Pictures
Amour at Rotten Tomatoes
Amour at Movie Review Intelligence

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