«AMOUR involves a thousand different things, and when I emphasize one of them, I reduce all the others. Ive never set
out to make a film about a certain theme. What led to me making this one was the question of how you deal with the death of
someone you love?»
Ideas and reality are rarely similar, says Anne to Georges at a place in the film where they discuss how he treats
her. Was your intention in Amour to enter a reality of love in which common ideas about it reach their limits, thereby reflecting
on the topos of love in the cinema?
Michael Haneke: Answering that question would lead to me interpreting my own work, but I would rather not specify what I want
to say with this film, because then the audience would see nothing more than what I said. Journalists want answers to the
questions I pose with my films. But the members of the audience should be posing the questions.
Something thats just as distinct as these two individuals love for each other is how unconditionally they cling
to their dignity.
Michael Haneke: People always fight to maintain their dignity, and the more difficult the situation youre in, the bigger
the battle. Thats our fate as humans, regardless of age. Every individual is confronted with the question of how much
of their dignity theyre prepared to give up, or the extent to which theyll fight against it.
The few times Anne and Georges encounter members of their childrens generation, whether their daughter, son-in-law or
the pianist, underlines the gap between the generations and the change in values and life concepts. Is Amour also about the
passing of a certain world?
Michael Haneke: Different generations develop different life concepts depending on their environment. Thats something
that happens in every generation. The interesting and sad thing about this is that with each new generation, difficulties
in communicating arise. Thats a constant source of potential conflict, and it always represents a departure. The older
generation is always the one that departs and is discarded, because the world around it changes to such a degree that its
unable to deal with it any longer. Of course, I can only make a film about the generation Im familiar with. Its
a problem that everyone faces at some point, whether in terms of their parents or themselves. Our societys set up in
such a way that if you become seriously handicapped and arent a millionaire who can afford home care, you have to leave
your home and the environment youre accustomed to, where you feel safe, and thats a terrible process, everybodys
Theres a beautiful scene at the kitchen table where Anne asks for the photo albums and turns to the past while Georges
continues eating and remains in the present. Amour not only confronts different generations with one another, but time periods
Michael Haneke: I dont approach a film with an idea of making it about a certain theme. Personal experiences or figures
or constellations of individuals are what interest me. Journalists have to condense these things and write about them in a
catchy way, but thats not how art works. Most catchy phrases are generalizations, because thats the only way.
The minute something can be described with a single term, its dead artistically. Nothing living is left, and theres
no reason to watch the film. Thats always the problem with an artistic statement and an article about it. When you watch
a film without any prior knowledge, its much more contradictory and complex. AMOUR involves a thousand different things,
and when I emphasize one of them, I reduce all the others. Of course, these observations are part of my thoughts, but Ive
never set out to make a film about a certain theme. What led to me making this one was the question of how you deal with the
death of someone you love. That interested me because Ive experienced it in my own family, and it moved me a great deal.
Thats why I began to think about it. And you think of things from your own memories or your imagination. The result
is that situations with a certain meaning develop. In the case of The White Ribbon too, I didnt say, Now Im going to make a film about upbringing and fascism. It began with my idea
to make a film about a childrens choir in the North. This idea then led to various other things. But the themes
never the starting point of my work as an artist. Nothing else would occur to me if what I wanted to say was already obvious
at the very beginning.
Doors and windows, closed or open, thresholds between inside and outside. In terms of space Amour is a chamber play, except
for the beginning. Can you say anything about the conception of this apartment?
Michael Haneke: The first two scenes are set in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, then theres the scene on a
bus, and after these three initial scenes everything was shot in the studio. All shooting took place in France, the studios
were just outside Paris. Then we had to shoot the views from windows, such as with curtains blowing in the breeze, which was
of course extremely difficult to show in a believable way.
An aspect that stood out in this indoor shoot is an extremely consistent color concept. Why?
Michael Haneke: These people have taste and decorated their living space tastefully. The floor plan of this apartment is the
floor plan of my parents apartment reconstructed according to a French style of interior decoration, of course
but other than that it corresponds to the setup of my parents apartment almost precisely. That facilitates the
approach. When you think about something, a lot of new ideas can result. The color concept came from the reconstructed library:
On that basis we attempted to furnish the apartment tastefully without adding more significance to the color. I wanted a tasteful
apartment in the style of a certain generation theres furniture from the 50s, a stereo with elements from
the 60s and a DVD player made during the 00s. We thought it all out to the last detail, how the furnishings in
this apartment came together over the years. In any case it should look lived in and not like a studio. Thats one of
the most difficult things to do, building an apartment that looks lived in rather than a film set.
How was the cast in AMOUR put together?
Michael Haneke: In the same way that I wrote Caché for Daniel Auteuil, I wrote this role for Jean-Louis Trintignant because
Ive always admired him and wanted to work with him. That was one of the reasons I thought up a film about older individuals.
Isabelle Huppert was an obvious choice for the role of the daughter: Her age fit perfectly, and you could say theres
a slight resemblance to Emmanuelle Riva. Of course, I knew Emmanuelle Riva from Hiroshima, Mon Amour a film that had an important influence on me and Ive always thought that shes magnificent. But then
she stopped playing leads for theatrical films. I imagined Emmanuelle Riva for this role from the very beginning, though I
didnt know if it would work. The casting process in France then settled the question, and in my opinion they make a
very attractive couple.
You managed to coax Jean-Louis Trintignant, a great personality in French cinema, back in front of the camera after an extended
period of time. Was it easy to convince him? Emmanuelle Riva does a great job creating the realism you require for this role.
What was working with your two leads like?
Michael Haneke: Jean-Louis Trintignant saw The White Ribbon and liked it so much that he was willing to work with me. Watching
him memorize something and witnessing his depth was a pleasure. In addition, hes an extremely charming person, and during
shooting everybody loved him. It was an exciting experience to shoot with these two older people, as their physical health
is no longer the best, and see their great discipline when at work and their confidence. We were all extremely impressed by
Emmanuelle Riva, because her role involved a certain amount of danger. Playing a role with any kind of handicap is extremely
rewarding when its done well, but it also involves the great danger that the end result isnt good. That was the
case with the part of Anne. One the one hand, her paralysis had to be believable, and on the other it was extremely important
to convince the audience that this was a lady of distinction and a woman with authority who drilled the pianist. You have
to remember that she was 84, and she put a great deal into this role with an iron will and a feeling of great responsibility,
which she mentioned repeatedly. Its an amusing coincidence that her very first film role and her first film at Cannes
was Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and now shes at Cannes again in a film with amour in the title.
Once again you chose a frame story. Why do you like to make use of this narrative element?
Michael Haneke: Its an efficient way to begin a narrative arc, and it was an obvious choice in this case. With this
story you can expect that there wont be a happy ending. Why should I play with the uncertainty of the conclusion? When
death is a certainty from the very beginning, this false narrative arc is unnecessary. This gives the story a different twist.
In this story you have reality and realism, dream and memory merge seamlessly...
Michael Haneke: ... just like in real life.
Does the pigeon serve as a surprising symbol in your films?
Michael Haneke: Consider the pigeon just a pigeon. You can interpret it any way you want. I wouldnt describe it as a
symbol. I have problems with symbols, because they always mean something specific. I dont know what the pigeon means.
All that I know for certain, I think, is that the pigeon appears. It may symbolize something in particular to Georges and
individual viewers, but it doesnt symbolize anything to me. You have to be careful when you deal with elements with
multiple meanings, they must be dealt with ambiguously. This has already happened several times in the past. Remember 71 Fragments
of a Chronology of Chance: Bach chorales can be heard playing on a radio again and again, and you could regard that as a metaphor,
as an opportunity to see it as more than it is. But you dont have to. There are lots of pigeons in Paris.
Interview: Karin Schiefer