David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor
Though his films might lead you to believe otherwise, Michael Haneke is surprisingly good-humored in conversation. His latest film, Amour, is nominated for five Oscars: best picture, foreign-language film, director, original screenplay, and actress. It soberly and precisely charts the decline of an aged French couple, played to a fare-thee-well by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. The film might be the writer-director’s most personal to date, for though it retains the intense focus and absence of sentimentality present in his other work, its plainly expressed—and inevitably touching—humanity was inspired by a chapter from Haneke’s own life. Until Amour, Haneke was best known in America for the Oscar-nominated The White Ribbon (2009), which chillingly depicts village life in pre-World War I Germany and hints at the foundations of Nazism, and Cache (2005), which plumbs issues of memory, guilt, and identity. Speaking from Madrid, during rehearsals for a production of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte, the filmmaker discussed with AwardsLine various issues connected with his recent film work.
AwardsLine: What compelled you to make Amour?
Michael Haneke: Nothing forced me [to make the film], but what motivated me was a case in my family. I was forced to look on as someone very close to me suffered—but not specifically as depicted in the film—someone for whom I cared for very much. And that led me to make …