One of the memories that still haunts me is when my family were moving my father into a hospice. My dad was barely recognisable at the time of the move. Gone was the strong and proud African I once knew and in his place a silent, frail and delicate man holding on to the last flickers of life.
Just when we were about to leave him in what I can still remember to be a pleasant but eerily place, my dad began to cry. I swear, nothing has made me sadder or more helpless in my life – not even the day when my mum rang to tell me and my sisters he had gone. I transferred all of my frustrations and anger to my mother – how could she leave him in such a place? Why couldn’t he be at home? Why couldn’t he die with his family around him?
I had this anger weighing me down after my dad passed until my mum started telling me stories about the life she and my father had - the life I knew nothing about. How they met, how they courted in the strange way Africans do, the trials they faced once they were in the UK. I saw my mum trying to keep our grieving family together with every fibre of her being and began to realise what a remarkable woman she actually is.
I write all this because the film Amour reminded me of my parents and Jean-Louis Trintignant’s Georges made me realise what a child I was for blaming my mum during the latter stages of my dad’s life. Being a carer is a ridiculously difficult job.
Amour is a film about an elderly couple, Georges and Emmanuelle Riva’s Anne. The latter has a stroke and it is up to Georges to look after his wife – especially after she makes him promise never to hospitalise her. The film chronicles the couple’s lives as Anne health worsens.
Amour is a truly extraordinary film – for the first time in a long time I can say that I haven’t seen or experienced a film like this. It’s a harrowing film but extremely and utterly beautiful at the same time.
All my life I have been obsessed with Disney and the interpretation of love that they have helped to instil in the films of today. Watching Amour I realised the film was answering a question that I never realised needed answering – what happens after the happily-ever-after?
Watching Georges look after his wife is the purest and most striking representation of love that I have ever seen in a film. Usually cinema will give outlandish scenario’s where characters prove their love by committing criminal acts but, fuck, would the Prince push Cinderella to the toilet, lifted her on it, wiped her when she was done and pull her pants up? And Aladdin do the same everyday while watching Jasmin's soul slowly ebb away?
Amour is a very difficult film to watch – so difficult that Mrs Bear couldn’t bear to finish it. “Why is this enjoyable? Why would you want to carry on watching?” All fair questions to ask. Why would you want to watch an elderly woman struggling to read a book? Why would you want to watch an elderly man struggling to feed his wife? You wouldn’t, but I couldn’t stop watching.
Every credit in the world has to go to the two main actors in this film. I never once felt like I was watching a film, rather that I was watching the intimate and very private moments of two people that loved each other deeply. Not much is said about the two main character’s history but somehow you seem to understand what they mean to each other and what they have gone through.
I only saw a fraction of the stuff my mother did while dad was ill and never had the chance to glance at the really grim activities. This film made me understand a little better what my mother had to endure and, frankly, it made me proud that my mother held out sending him to a hospice for as long as she did. I now understand how it can be overwhelming to care for someone who has been your life for most of your life.
Happily-ever-after doesn’t end happily – Amour made me realise this. It always ends in sadness, one way or another. The only solace that I take from this new piece of information is that I want someone who will nurse me and love me, like Georges loved Anne, if times get pitch dark.