"A simple film"
by Fabien Lemercier
11/05/2012 - Accompanied by his actors Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Isabelle Huppert, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke spoke briefly to the international press (with his usual reticence to analyse his work) about his latest film, the refined and very masterful Amour, unveiled in the competition at the 65th Cannes Film Festival.
Why did you decide to tackle the relatively invisible topic of the suffering of the elderly?
Michael Haneke: I never write a film to show something. When you reach a certain age, you are automatically confronted to the suffering of the people you love: parents, grandparents. This is what brought about the project. I didn't want to say anything about society.
Why did you choose to shoot the film behind closed doors ?
I didn't want to make a social film, with hospitals, the kind of thing that we have all seen a thousand times. Because the theme of the film is people's behaviour. And, formally, it's more gratifying. If a subject allows you to stay in the same place, it's much better. I'm very happy to have made a simple film.
Sound and voices play a great role in the film. What is your method?
I work on emotions, on their accuracy. Naturally, there is an internal musicality to all dialogues that one has to find. I work more with my ears than with my eyes, as you can hear immediately if an emotion is right. When you look, there are so many things that it's more difficult.
What of the violence in the film's topic and the discomfort it might cause for the audience?
Violence is a recurring theme in questions I'm asked. But I don't seek it out. In life, there are pleasant moments and others that are less pleasant. It's the same thing for all feelings, including violence and love.
Do actors suffer in your films?
I create in the most efficient way possible, with a cool gaze. It's a romantic idea to think that a film set has to be sad to make a tragic film. For the actors, it's not suffering that's important, but concentration.
In what direction did the actors work?
Jean-Louis Trintignant: Michael absolutely did not want it to be too sentimental or mushy. I hadn't been in a film for 14 years and didn't want to be in any more films. I accepted because it was Michael Haneke, an exceptional director and one of the world's greatest. But I also had never met such a demanding director. He is an expert in all the disciplines of filmmaking. I have been in over 100 films, but it's the first time that I am happy to see myself on screen.