Posts Tagged ‘Isabelle Huppert’

Joachim Trier follows his highly regarded Oslo, August 31st with his English-speaking debut Louder Than Bombs, which received mixed reviews in Cannes and Toronto before arriving here in Glasgow. Featuring an impressive cast including Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects, Millers Crossing), Isabelle Huppert (Amour) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, The End of the Tour) Trier directs with skill, regardless of the new challenge of a second language.

Louder Than Bombs opens with a striking image of life – a newborn holding the hand of its father Jonah (Eisenberg) – shortly followed by a reveal of the death of Eisenberg’s mother Isabelle (Huppert), although this has already happened by the birth of Jonah’s son. This becomes a staple technique of the film, jumping forward and backwards in time, revealing a bit more detail each time, or viewing the same scene from a different character’s perspective. As a result, the dead mother Isabelle remains a living, breathing character in the film’s narrative, either due to flashback or premonition.

As for the rest of the family, the film deals with their varying attempts to cope with the grief of losing their mother including the sensitive windowed Husband Gene (Byrne), the aforementioned Jonah – who is more similar than his secretly suffering mother than he realised – and the younger teenage son Conrad; expertly played by Devin Druid, previously only known for playing teenage Louis C.K in his eponymous show. Conrad’s character is particularly fascinating, as while he appears to be the hardest hit of all, he shows the greatest deal of optimism in the film.

As well as family grief, Louder Than Bombs is very much about the words and feelings that go unexpressed between close family members – and the gap in understanding that this creates. Jonah’s character goes in the opposite direction of his younger brother: at first seeming capable of saving his family’s problems, but soon emerging as repressed and neglectful.

While the premise may sound fairly depressing, there is plenty of emotional depth found in this film. Louder Than Bombs retains a sense of humour and is playful enough with its form to keep it from being a “Capital D Drama” as Trier has put it. While the film examines the universally difficult subject of family grief, it doesn’t fail to show the warmth that these characters exert; even if often misplaced – as shown in several attempts by the father and sons to engage with the opposite sex – with varying degrees of success and conscientiousness.

On top of this, Trier plays with not just narrative structure, but with realism and filmic self-awareness, including lots of fun references to influential films (Vertigo, being one.) He also uses the imagination and dreams to represent the characters’ consciousness on screen. The greatest example of this is Conrad listening to a female classmate he is crushing on. As she reads aloud a classic text, he starts imagining her words visually; his mind takes over and she begins narrating the scene of his mother’s death and what thoughts might have gone through her mind, when she realised she was about to die. It is a truly thrilling scene and a technique that Trier explores throughout this intriguing film.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke has made a habit of challenging taboos in his 20-odd year cinematic career, from racial conflict in Hidden, media violence in Funny Games and the emptiness of modern life in The Seventh Continent. He has an innate ability to hone in on what he deems to be troubling Western society, and subject it to his own meticulous cinematic scalpel. Reaching his 70th year, he has turned towards an issue that he himself will surely be contemplating in the years to come; the ageing process.

Working again in his adopted home town of Paris, he has written a film about an elderly couple living alone in their apartment, stalked by the threat of growing old and senile. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) were both involved in classical music; Anne was evidently a teacher, Georges’ occupation unclear. They are still in love, though prone to the occasional niggle at each other. They spend their days inside the apartment, and Haneke’s camera coyly avoids the outside world. Their only visitors are their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) and friendly neighbours.

The film clicks into gear when the two sit down to breakfast one morning. Georges asks Anne something, but there is no reply. She just stares into space. It is this single moment which indicates the tragic decline of Anne’s mental and physical state. Haneke has a way of conjuring immense foreboding with just the tiniest of events; think back to the teens whose seemingly innocent request for some eggs in Funny Games sets in motion the terrible chain of events. So it is a film about the two lovers coming to deal with the loss of life as they know it, and the gradual downward cycle. Typically cheery Haneke fare then.

Haneke makes pains to create a disparity between the couple and the outside world; it is a us vs. them scenario. A visit from a cherished former pupil ends with him declaring the ‘sadness’ of the situation. Their daughter challenges Georges, issues him with thinly veiled ultimatums, while the newly employed nurses are impersonal and rough with Anne. It is only their downstairs neighbours who exude any real empathy with their situation, and it is no surprise that they are not so much younger. Haneke seems to be indicating a clear age divide between those who see a terrible scenario unfolding and those who have to live through it.

Amour is not an easy film to watch, but often the most rewarding films are also the most challenging. It is a struggle to think of many films that deal with ageing fullstop, let alone in such an uncompromising way, so for that Haneke should be applauded. The performances by the veteran actors Trintignant and Riva are superb and devoid of vanity. Aesthetically the film is classic Haneke; muted interiors, wide angle shots, long takes. The most striking thing about this new film, though, even despite the grim subject matter, is a sense of humanity creeping in throughout the film. Yes, there are moments of domestic horror and cruelty, but the defining emotion is the one clung to by the couple; amour.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: