by Jim Ridley
Michael Haneke's Amour — a surprise Oscar nominee for Best Picture and Best Director, especially for people who haven't seen the film but have followed the Austrian director's lacerating work — opens tonight at The Belcourt after months of clamoring from patrons. Jason Shawhan interviewed Haneke at last fall's New York Film Festival, and his piece in this week's Scene is well worth checking out. A taste:
With the very specific needs of your script, was it difficult finding the appropriate actors?
I wrote the screenplay for Jean-Louis Trintignant, and in fact I would not have made the film without him. Not only is he an exceptional actor, but he exudes the human warmth which was absolutely necessary for the role. It was different with Emmanuelle Riva. I had seen her as a young man in Hiroshima, Mon Amour and was smitten by her, but I had lost sight of her through the years, so when it came to that part, I did a normal casting in Paris with all the actresses who were of an appropriate age. It was clear from the first audition that Emmanuelle was perfect for the part — not only because she is a wonderful actress, but also because she and Trintignant form a very credible couple.
There are moments with Riva's character Anne that feel almost like a violation to watch. Did you have any difficulties getting her to the place the film requires?
After Emmanuelle had read the screenplay and as I was meeting with her for the first time to discuss the part, I asked her if there was anything she found difficult or made her nervous, and she did reference the nudity. I told her that unfortunately the scene was unavoidable and that it was essential for the film. ... She said she would shoot it, but not as Emmanuelle Riva; she would shoot as the character of Anne, and that made it bearable for her. As a director, I did all that I could to preserve her dignity. I did not exaggerate the physical misery that she was going through.