A towering achievement. Haneke's austere and detailed direction creates a claustrophobic and painfully realistic experience for the viewers. It's an ode to love, death, affection and acceptance.
Michael Haneke is one of the few auteurs who've never disappointed me. After excelling with 'Hidden' (2005) and 'The White Ribbon' (2009), he creates another masterpiece that is both humane and slyly political. It's not just a film about the difficulties and pain of aging. It's not just about love's essence and the limits one can reach for his beloved people. It's also about accepting death as something natural and inevitable. It's about the social reaction to aging, it's about old people's loneliness and the way they're cut off and not understood by their own children. I could go on and on mentioning all the themes Haneke's brilliant film covers. It's such a multi-dimensional, multi-layered achievement, it's a true masterpiece.
Jean-Louis Trintignant is absolutely sublime. This is one of the greatest acting achievements in his career. It's a deeply esoteric performance and a beautifully touching one. Trintignant has always been a brilliantly expressive actor and he's once again excellent here. He plays a troubled and tortured man, a husband who has to face his most terrible fears. Emmanuelle Riva goes even further with her performance. It's not only a devastatingly emotional performance, portraying a gentle and lovely woman whose life is shaken after the first stroke. Her facial expressions are amazingly deep and nuanced, it's one of the most accurate and detailed performances I've seen. This woman accepts death and is grateful for the life she's lived. But once pain becomes unbearable, she wants to escape from this torture. And she becomes suicidal. But it's also a physically demanding performance and she excels. An utterly brave performance, especially for a woman of her age. Facing mortality in a completely direct and raw way.
The screenplay is extremely complex and rich and Haneke's attention to details makes this such an unforgettable experience. The poetic/symbolic/ambiguous scenes (opening scene, the nightmare, the pidgeon, the final scenes) are beautiful touches that made me admire Haneke's intelligence even more. Oh, mind you, this is not an easy film to watch.
I'd also love to mention the beautiful cinematography. Long takes, static and monochromatic shots, beautiful winter light through the windows, all creating a thick and claustrophobic atmosphere. The art direction is also exceptional. I knew the house like the back of my hand. Brilliantly detailed production design and utterly wonderful.
I'd love to talk in-depth about the film, but I'm afraid there will be way too many spoilers.
10 out of 10.
I just found a video (it's in French and German) and it features several scenes from the film. Do not watch it, if you haven't seen the film. Seriously, don't.