Beautiful and devastating… and beautiful.
From the moment the movie begins you have a sense that something different is going on as the film emerges from the dark and silence it will eventually be returned to. In fact, it is the only movie I can recall in years that has no soundtrack underlying the action (let alone the credits). It just allows the story “to be.” Even the Foley work for the environmental sounds is muted, keeping the entire canvas unadorned to focus you on the visuals and the emotions. It was a brave and dangerous choice in the world of blockbusters and manipulative drama on the screen. It also allowed the incredibly subtle performances to just play out.
This isn’t an easy movie. And, if you’ve ever been a caretaker for an adult, it will hit home. It is also one of the most honest, and yet somehow romanticized depictions of the situation put to film. Being awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Best Foreign Language at the Academies, and a host of other “Best” wins and nominations around the world (actors, directing, film) was well deserved. Writer/director Haneke (The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher) continues his run of impressive, if emotionally challenging, work.
But the writing and directing could not have succeeded without the cast duo of Riva and Trintignant. While both have long and recognized histories in the industry, Riva received almost all the attention for her performance. In fact, she became the oldest performer to ever be nominated for an Oscar. Her performance is incredible. Oddly, balancing her with subtle strength and moments, Trintignant was practically ignored by the committees. It really is his film, but he serves as the pallet against which we understand everything else and for many he faded into the background.
This is not an easy movie to watch, simply because it is so real and so honest it will shake you. But it is also so beautiful and so honest it will bring you unimaginable hope and joy. This film will be considered a classic as the years go on. It is an incredible example of what story-telling is all about, how simply it can be done, and how affecting it can be.