Two-time Palme d'Or winner Michael Haneke recently took some time to discuss his latest drama "Amour", which has just won the prestigious prize at the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the Austrian filmmaker shared that he had been facing various challenges in making the acclaimed film especially because he had to work with octogenarian actors such as Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant.
"Of course it wasn't always easy," said Haneke. "In the end sequence, Jean-Louis speaks for about eight minutes before any action takes place. The concentration it requires to memorizes that long text is extraordinarily difficult for any actor of any age. And on top of that, while we were shooting, Jean-Louis broke his wrist. So it was physically difficult for him. It was sometimes very complicated for Emmanuelle as well."
Haneke explained that Riva "was very worried about one scene that involves being smothered by a pillow - it was very uncomfortable!" He added, "But they're both such professionals and recognize that though the roles demanding, they're very gratifying as well. And I think that gratification motivated them to try and give their best."
Another challenge in making the highly-praised movie was the details in each set. "When I'm writing, I like to have a concrete idea of the location that I'm working with," he said. "It gives you ideas, it helps you find solutions on what to shoot. In this case, their apartment in Paris was based on my parents' apartment. I decorated accordingly, changing it from Viennese to French style."
The 70-year-old director also explained that the piano in the apartment's living room played an important role in the movie. He revealed, "One of our early titles for 'Amour' was 'The Music Stops'. I love music, and used to play piano. I grew up with a stepfather who was a conductor and composer. At 14, I wanted to be a concert pianist, but I didn't have the talent so I stopped."
"Amour" follows Georges and Anne who are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, when Anne has a heart attack, the couple's bond of love is severely tested. The film marks Haneke's second directorial effort that won Palme d'Or after 2009's "The White Ribbon".
Of the meaning behind the movie itself, Haneke said, "For me, the film is simply about how you deal with the suffering of someone you love. That's the true subject, not whether or not someone dies."