Theme and Form-Love and Loss

The simplicity of the title “Amour” in a story that tells of love in such a complex and unique way amplifies Haneke’s touch for powerful yet subtle storytelling. When Emmanuelle Riva accepted her best actress award at Cesars, she pointed out that the film title did not refer to “l’amour” [‘the act of loving’ in French] nor “un amour” [a love or lover]. Instead, she said that for her, “Amour” alone sounded like someone’s name. Lovers exist as individuals, but what does ‘love’ in the abstract really mean? (Quinodoz 376). Throughout this film we see not only the deterioration of life, but the peak of a couple’s love for one other before they must separate in this life. Love stories are often told in the beginning of the relationship. Thousands of movies rely on stories of fairytale, courtship, lust, and romance. Though there have been stories through the ages that expose the intricacies of loving unconditionally, I have not seen a film that explores the concept on such a deep level as Haneke does with Amour. 


The film introduces the couple in a crowd of people at a concert. The shot is wide, and the couple sits in the middle of an auditorium full of people. This imagery seems to suggest that the couple are not anything special. To me it seems that Haneke deliberately starts the film this way to depict that the couple’s love story, while unique to them as individuals, is a universal tale of enduring human love. When the couple returns from the concert, they realize their house has been robbed. “They are so calm and secure that they are not even particularly rattled to discover, upon returning home from the concert, that someone has damaged the door in an attempt to break in…Before she goes to bed, he comments on how lovely she looked that night” (Franklin 43). This scene seems to lend itself to communicating the security of the couple’s relationship without using up more than a few minutes of the movie. It seems that together they feel untouchable, that all they really need to feel safe is one another. This sense of security also seems to foreshadow pending tragedy, as the couples lives have symbolically been “intruded” by Anne’s tragic stroke the next day much like they have been robbed in the literal sense.


The robbery could possibly also symbolize loss as a larger theme, and perhaps even death. The literal loss of belongings or security could be a metaphor for the loss of life and health, which seems to be demonstrated again later in the film when Georges has a nightmare that someone is breaking into their house again. This occurs after Anne has had her stroke. Georges goes out into the hall to find their apartment flooded, and a hand comes from behind him to cover his mouth. My interpretation of this scene was Georges fear of security and a loss of control in both his life and in the health of Anne. Though he tries his best to care for Anne (and check the house for a burgular) he is overwhelmed by the flooded house and physical power of the burglar much like he is by Anne’s inability to recover or sustain her health.


The theme of loss in this film is perhaps as prevalent as its main theme of love. Do the two go hand in hand? Does one need to experience the ever present fear of loss to truly love and commit to another individual, as they know their time with them is fleeting? One critic spoke to a friend about the danger of love, reflecting on the idea that people deeply in love may ignore the possibility of loss: “It seemed very risky…for those people only capable seeing the present state of a relationship and denying the uncertainty of the future to commit to an uncertain future” (Quinodoz 376).  But is it the riskiness they should be concerned with by focusing on the present or the reality that the present is forever fleeting, and that the commitment to grow with one individual is the only way to experience true enduring love despite the risk of eventual loss.




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