Michael Haneke on Amour

Austrian director on French-language drama and Palm D’Or-winner

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Amour is a portrait of isolation. How important was it to set the film almost entirely within one apartment?
First of all, it’s the case that with old people, especially when they’re sick, the world shrinks to the four walls they live within. They shut out the world. Also, I wanted to avoid making my film a ‘social drama’. There have been enough films that present these themes as a social drama, that deal with context and environment, with hospitals, ambulances and doctors. I didn’t want to make a social drama, but an existential drama.

Georges and Anne can afford nursing care. Why did you choose to make them comfortably off?
It would have been possible to set the film in a social milieu where the people were poor, where they couldn’t afford to keep Anne at home and would have had to send her to hospital. However, the audience would have concluded that if only they had more money, if only they could afford to keep her at home and have private nursing, it would have been easier for them. Which, of course, is totally false.

You give us a man coping with his wife’s illness. Why that way around?
You’re right, it could have been done differently. The film was inspired in part by an experience in my own family, where it was the other way around. In general it’s more frequently the other way around, because women live longer than men.

Amour is in French, and although you’re Austrian, you’ve worked in France many times. Is that an artistic decision?
In this case, I made the choice because I love the actors. It was because of Jean-Louis Trintignant. I don’t know of any German actors who could have played the part as well as him, so it was clear from the start it was going to be with him and shot in French. The White Ribbon had to be in German because of the subject matter, that was clear. But in the case of Amour, it could have taken place in any country.

This is a sad film, but it also contains reassuring ideas about love – you suggest that true love is more about actions than feelings.
Yes, of course. What we do for another person is more important than what we feel for them.
Amour screens on Friday December 14 at 8pm, Madinat Arena; and Sunday December 16 at 3pm, Vox, Mall of the Emirates.

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