Haneke is a pretentious, hollow, arty of a wanker. This movie does more damage than good.
So am I supposed to think that when death comes we should all shut down and run away from the world because of our physical and mental demise?
I work near and around death and most of my patients face up to it with dignity and embrace it exactly because, in the movies’ words, la vie est beau. Killing the loved one to spare her pain and humiliation is an abhorrent action to me. This movie is trying to tell us that when we die the outside world loses its meaning. Well it doesn’t Mr. Haneke. This movie tries to make me view death as an enemy that shrinks people to shameful and proud creatures bent on avoiding human contacts at all costs because illness, in all of its forms, poses a threat to human dignity and sympathy. The scene which shows the woman’s reaction to her former pupil well-meaning card made me sick to my stomach. Love is not only supposed to give meaning to life and death but it is supposed to make us endure our final moments, both for patients and carers, not being ashamed of our suffering. Death is not a burglar that comes into our home and breaks our lock. Death is part of our home.
Haneke wanted to become a priest at one stage. He should have. Comparisons with Bergman are ridiculous. Bergman was interested in showing human foibles starkly, in their most genuine form, whereas Haneke’s characters become so fortified in their pride that one might wonder whether pride is replaced with shame and conceitedness. Haneke here’s message to you: stop condemning your characters so severely, life is beautiful because there is death in it and not in spite of it.
I haven't as yet seen the film so would normally find it hard to comment on your post. However, your post doesn't discuss the film but instead gives your view on euthanasia and so I am able to respond to that.
"So am I supposed to think that when death comes we should all shut down and run away from the world because of our physical and mental demise?"
You are not supposed to think anything - we all have different views.
"I work near and around death and most of my patients face up to it with dignity and embrace it exactly because, in the movies’ words, la vie est beau."
Your patients would appear not to have a choice - if they did they may take an alternative option.
"Killing the loved one to spare her pain and humiliation is an abhorrent action to me."
To you yes - to many others no.
"This movie is trying to tell us that when we die the outside world loses its meaning."
To the person who is dead, it clearly does as they no longer live in the world.
"This movie tries to make me view death as an enemy that shrinks people to shameful and proud creatures bent on avoiding human contacts at all costs because illness, in all of its forms, poses a threat to human dignity and sympathy."
Death poses no threat to human dignity and sympathy - dying is what poses the threat.
"life is beautiful because there is death in it and not in spite of it."
I beg to differ.
Well Said!! I love how someone can say that Haneke is smug and sanctimonious- but dear God- can anybody be more sanctimonious, oppressive and tyrannical than to force another to stay alive either for their own selfish needs OR in order to reinforce their own moral principles?!! I could go on about this, but frankly I'm just too disgusted. Those who believe others should be eradicated of their will to choose in order to fulfill the beliefs of others are so cruel. What this husband did (and a more loving creature I could not even conceive), was exactly what the theme of this movie was about- love. Love is caring so much about the other that you let them fulfill themselves at the sacrifice of possession. Most of us will never be able to realize that. Love, to the ordinary person, is symbiotic. To truly love, you must let the other will themselves as an entirely independent person. He had true love to fulfill her request because she could not carry her autonomous wish out on her own, and someone who would have loved less would have acted according to their beliefs instead of their loved one's. This film was not about the ethics of euthanasia. It was about love, the rare, painful love- the only kind of love that is worth living, and dying for. This, like all of Haneke's films, was just a haunting and absolutely magnificent masterpiece. I think I went through about 10 tissues at least in the theater btw!!
Does this make him pretentious because you disagree?
His wife asked him to kill her after her second stroke, remember? She asked him about the funeral he went to and cut him off misway through his explaination asking him if she could die. The film, in my opinion, shows him keeping her alive for the reasons you stated, even though she had decided she wanted to die.
What do you think of free will if one is physically unable to act on it?
I'm not sure Haneke is encouraging murder or euthansia, but expressing what happens when both parties agree to give up. One slowly after the other. She gave up first, he gave her what she asked for.
This is just my interpretation, and I'm aware that my response expresses a different point of view (and even immoral, according to you). I would hope you do not think of me as pretentious simply for disagreeing.
Just saw this quote by Haneke from a BBC interview:
"Well, first I don't think euthanasia is one of the principle themes of this film. For me, what mattered here was the question of how to deal with the suffering of a loved one. And secondly, of course, in the context of euthanasia, I do have my own position about that. But Michael Haneke's opinion on this isn't really very important. What matters is that the audience develop their own opinion in relation to this, rather than I instil opinion in them."
I can see both sides of this argument and have personal insight. I'm in my 20s and disabled. I'm also a secular humanist so have no distorting views about God or the romanticisation of life/death.
What is difficult for me is that I see a lot of able bodied people talk about 'dignity' with regard to watching someone else struggle with physical disabilities. This is evident every time you see a person look away quickly from someone with profound disabilities. Why do people do this? It says more about the person looking away (in what, shame? disgust?) than predicament of the disabled person living their every day life. So much of this euthanasia debate is clouded by prejudices and judgments regarding what fully fit and healthy people think is 'an acceptable way to live'.
If this isn't making a lot of sense to any of you think for a moment on an example. We witness Anne wet the bed in Amour. I was not torn apart by this scene, were you? I only felt regret that Anne seemed so upset by it. A lot of people comment on Haneke's cold, observational style. But are we not invited to see her bed wetting as a tragedy? An insufferable indignity? She is certainly portrayed to be humiliated by this new symptom of her disability. Is it not more likely that she is affected by her supposed "lack of dignity" for the very reason I am talking about now, i.e. society looks away from this stuff. She is trained, as are we all, to think a life tainted by disability is less worthy than death.
However, we must pick this apart. Why should someone who is incapable of controlling incontinence feel shame?
I don't think this is what Haneke is asking. I think that is my own gut reaction to watching this film coming from a place of experience. Anne is a very proud woman from an upper class, artistic and wealthy family. I don't think physical infirmity was something that would have even crossed her mind for a second before the stroke. However, disability, lack of control over one's body is something that people of all ages have to contend with daily. I hate to see arguments that profoundly disabled/ terminally ill people should just be snuffed out at the slight whiff of 'indignity' or when they say their lives are miserable. Part of me wonders how much of this is based on society sending out such a strong message that they are a burden.
However, a massive caveat on this is that we simply must listen to people when they express a sustained wish to die. Fear of death is something we all have to overcome and to actively seek it is a sure sign of a tragic existence. I think it is the worst sort of paternalism to tell someone who wants to die that they ought not to.
If I am recalling it correctly, the most interesting part of the film for me was when Anne first states she wants to die. Georges says the issue of her being a burden is irrelevant, that she would do the same for him. She says his focus on burden is misplaced, that she wants to die for her sake, not for him. She says that it is her own selfish wish, not to do with her consideration for him. It is difficult to argue with that.
I found an interesting blog about this film on The Guardian website. This paragraph stood out for me, particularly because I found the end of the film, with its totally silent, cut to black so unexpectedly powerful, if not just a wee bit unsettling …
In a recent interview with the BFI's Geoff Andrew, Haneke revealed that the flat in the movie was based on his parents' apartment in Vienna and that he had considered the bleak title The Music Stops – each piece of music in the film is in fact interrupted. Perhaps that is what the end of all our lives will feel like: something switched off before its time and not allowed to reach a vaguely imagined, satisfying "end".
What's the significance of the cut up flowers in the sink full of water?
The flowers were definitely referencing the childhood story - the pact with his mother to write a weekly postcard, with flowers drawn on it if he is enjoying camp and wants to stay, with stars if he is miserable and wants to leave.
When the flowers are separated from their stems they become little stars, a simultaneous 'i want to stay'/'i want to go', an incredibly poignant way of showing the emotional conflict and all its ambivalence, just brilliant.
Although we do not see him do it, Georges does not cut only flower heads. The image of Anne's body in the beginning shows that he put flowers with stems in her hands.
The reason he cut flower heads is related to the significance he associates with the story he told Anne at her bedside - his last words to her.
Georges’ story related how he was forced to eat rice pudding at a summer camp, a dessert he hates, and how he could not leave the table until finished. Afterward he fell ill, and was sent to a hospital where he was put in isolation; he and his mother were separated by a window.
George had put stars all over a drawing of the castle where the kids were staying - a symbol he and his mother had decided would let her know he hated the place.
Thus Georges described an experience of being forced to take in food against his will, an act he recently found himself committing against his wife. Moreover, that experience is indelibly linked for George with illness and isolation from a loved one, also realities he’s had to cope with recently.
After Anne's death, Georges places flower heads around her head – flowers being the symbol he and his mother had decided would let her know he was pleased with the place he was staying. And as we know, he will stay, and he will resolve his isolation.
The act of snipping the flower heads and placing them around Anne's head is a kind of reversal of that resonant youthful experience he'd remembered all his life. Borrowing from that long-ago negative experience, which had similar qualities to present circumstances, struck Georges as a way to bestow profound personal meaning on the ordeal of his last days of life.
What was everyones interpretation of the pigeon?
If you know anything about Haneke's back catalogue, then you know it does not usually end at all well for animals; whether real or simulated (the fish in Seventh Continent, the pig in Benny's Video, the horse in Time of the Wolf, the chicken in Hidden, the bird and horse in The White Ribbon- have I forgotten anything?)
I was convinced Georges was going to kill the pigeon, but was praying inside he wouldn't. Even though he'd 'killed' his wife it was through love.
The suspense of waiting for Georges to write (and in turn the subtitles to translate it if like me you don't read French) was excrutiating! Touch of genius on Haneke's part.
So, is the fact that Georges let the pigeon go, a sign of Haneke mellowing? Has he acknowledges he's past that phase now, and like the characters in this achingly beautiful film (which I think is now his best film incidentally) he is older, wiser and ready to contemplate his morality?
When the first pigeon flew into apartment, my girlfriend immediately reported "pigeon is death". Same for second pigeon - "George going to die now too". In Russia it is a sign of death in the place which a bird entered.
My quick thoughts: Haneke is a careful and thoughtful director. Every element is always considered and he makes each element pregnant with many meanings. The pigeons (doves) work in the film as narrative, object, metaphor, and symbol, all at once. It is this multiplicity of meanings that make film and art so rich.
The two appearances of a pigeon (dove) in the apartment contain and echo all of the references mentioned above, though the first meaning makes the most sense:
- a harbinger of death foretold
- a personification of death
- a visitation by the spirit of a recently deceased person
- the symbolic soul of Anne
- a reference to freedom lost (by sickness and death)
- a reference to freedom gained (by escaping pain)
The different reactions of Georges to the two visitations are equally poignant and thoughtful.
At the first visitation of the pigeon, Georges utterly rejects this prophesy of death. He shoos away this omen of Anne's death or of his involvement in her death and drives the pigeon back out the window. He rejects the idea that Anne is dying and will not consider hastening it.
By the second visitation, Anne is dead, by Georges' own hand. Now this pigeon has come to foretell Georges' own death. Georges now welcomes the pigeon's arrival. He quickly shuts the window, not to entrap the bird, but so as not to lose this precious gift. Georges then moves to embrace this gift of his own death, and Haneke is at great pains to make this scene deliberately ambiguous and lengthy to heighten your attention to Georges' quite different response to death. It is vitally important to over-emphasize this interaction to underscore the story element of the pigeon as a symbolic statement and to underscore that Georges' change in behavior is a considered moral action.
(Ignore Haneke's protestations that there are no symbols in his films, this is a long-honored protestation of innocence by the filmaker. All artists worry they are overly directive of the audience in their work and that the final meaning of a film or any work of art truly must always be with the audience who makes these final determinations.)
Georges captures the pigeon and cherishes it, caresses this gift of death holding it close to his heart. Georges is also expressing his love of life and of Anne, and Haneke is also flirting with the secondary meaning of the bird as Anne's spirit.
As soon as George has captured the bird his own frailty is now more starkly apparent. In his letter, Georges remarks on how easily he was able to capture the bird. The letter is a letter of farewell where he is thus expressing how easy it is for him now to accept his own death.
To return to the filmmaker's intention: The multiple meanings that the director deliberately supports for elements in the film are what allows viewers to each come away with different impressions and meanings. This is not a failure on the filmmaker's part, but an important core part of the artmaking process. It is this careful ambiguity, thoughtfully preserved throughout the film, that allows each audience member to find their own truth within the film, in viewing it, in reflecting upon it and in discussing it with others where we can share our own varied reactions.
re: Ignore Haneke's protestations that there are no symbols in his films
In interviews for this picture, Haneke doesn't protest that there are no symbols, but says that he prefers to avoid creating symbols that are too reductive, with meanings that are literal and exclusive:
"I have problems with symbols, because they always mean something specific. I don’t 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 doesn’t symbolize anything to me. You have to be careful when you deal with elements with multiple meanings, they must be dealt with ambiguously."
He would be content with your interpretation for example, since it allows for more than one view.
The symbols I prefer, which a filmmaker like Haneke presents, offer a variety of legitimate meanings, none of which are definitive or mutually exclusive. I like this because it is the way we experience those events in real life that seem to speak to us. Symbols should be idiosyncratic and intimate, a little enigmatic, not easily reduced.