Mumbai Film Festival
Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

The 14th Mumbai Film Festival (October, 2012) explored the imaginative, intellectual and emotional forces of contemporary cinema. The  vitality of Italian Cinema was celebrated, along with 100 years of Popular Indian Cinema, Documenting Lives and Special selections from Asia.

Michael Haneke’s ‘‘Amour-Love’’ (France, Austria, colour, 127 minutes) commences with fire department officials breaking open a door of a Paris apartment with force. The nurse has not been seen recently. An old lady is dead on a bed, with flowers around the pillow. A flash back penetrates the present of the narration, as the audience clap after a piano recital, in a theatre on Champs Elysees. Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), an elderly couple and professors of music, at the end of the performance visit the private room of the artist, and return home in a bus. Within the apartment, the viewer follows the daily life of the music teachers in retirement. Memories, photo albums and rare visitors unravel the musical occupation, as gestures and certain words attest a sentimental love, reciprocated over the years. There are fears and anxieties over Anna, who is seriously ill. After internal operations, Anna returns home, and is either in torpor or in a sitting position. Georges lays out the meals.

Anne and Georges’ daughter, Eva (Isabelle Hupert) visits. She is married to a widely travelled British musician, Geoff. From loss of speech, Anne starts speaking, but suffers from loss of memory of the immediate past. She is on a wheel chair. Eva is brittle, and weeps with compassion. Anne spills tea from a tea pot, and demands that she would never be taken to a hospital again. A maid and a caretaker bring in the groceries. Georges attends the funeral of an old friend, Pierre, where the Beetles’ ‘Yesterday’ is played. Time passes away, and imagination and reality have nothing in common. Anne becomes more infirm, and has a fall. Georges helps Anne dress, and do physical exercises in bed. Anne is given a wash in the wash basin. Georges eats alone in the dining room. At night he has a nightmare that intruders have entered the flooded apartment. An old piano student, Alexander visits and plays Schubert’s piano concerto in G minor. Anne’s right side is now paralyzed, and she in on a drip. After lunch she watches photos in an album. Eva visits again, but Anne speaks incoherent gibberish. The daughter finds her unrecognizable. An audio cassette is put on, and Geroges imagines Anne is playing the piano. Georges feeds Anne. A nurse who is too bossy with the bed ridden patient is dismissed, and Georges does all the feeding and tending. Anne’s body in pain, barely moves, and cries ‘‘It hurts—mal’’.

Mute Anne refuses food and liquids. She spills water from her mouth, and Georges slaps her. Eva visits again, but Anne is a defenceless child, sad and humiliating. Georges crushes Anne with pillows, and her legs flutter from the blows, below the blanket. Georges brings flowers and cuts them from stem. He seals the doors with tapes. A pigeon enters the room, and he tries to stifle it too, with blankets. The pigeon flies out from the courtyard window. Anne cleaning plates in the kitchen, appears as an apparition. Daughter Eva returns to the empty apartment. Haneke’s film is beset with a life-or-death siege, and remains pitiless though touching. Housebreakers, pigeons and death arrive at the doorway of a house, built on classical music and paintings by Renoir. Love becomes a casualty, as terminal illness draws the old couple nearer. Darius Khondji’s mobile camera captures the illusions, and a past re-imagined in the sombre brown apartment, with a hallway. The scene of stifling is filmed as a deliverance and also like an execution of terminally ill. Haneke’s script infuses silent terror in the horror story. 

Vol. 45, No. 50, June 23 -29, 2013

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