Video: Michael Haneke on ‘Amour,’ Oscars, Cannes, love and horror

Some filmmakers are skittish talking about awards. Not Michael Haneke, who won the Palme d’Or twice (“The White Ribbon,” “Amour”), but has had trouble at the Oscars. He’s Austrian, but also an internationalist, so various countries have played tug of war over who gets to enter his pix in competition. Germany seized “The White Ribbon,” but now Austria claims “Amour” – even though its dialog is in French.

“It’s entirely appropriate that the film be submitted by Austria because I am Austrian,” he tells Gold Derby in our video chat. “This situation was more complicated than ‘The White Ribbon’ because that film was shot in Germany. It had a German cast, German crew and it dealt specifically with a German theme. So I thought, in that case, it was appropriate that the film be a German entry. Here it doesn’t matter which country would enter the film in the sense that the theme isn’t specifically Austrian. The only reason we shot the film in France is because of its star Jean-Louis Trintignant.”

“Amour” reveals the shocking lives of an elderly couple struggling to cope with the slow, agonizing death of the wife, who is portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva, a strong Oscar contender for Best Actress. The film can be viewed many ways – as positive affirmations of life and love or even as a horror flick. The latter view was suggested by Jeff Wells (Hollywood-Elsewhere) when I sat with him at a recent screening in Los Angeles.

Afterward, I asked Haneke if it’s OK to view “Amour” that way.

“If someone wants to see this film as a horror film, I’m fine with that,” Haneke said. “I don’t think of it like that. To me, the film is a love story. It’s a film about the difficulty and pain of watching someone you love suffer, not being able to do anything about it. If you see the film as a horror film, you’re only seeing one side of this film. To me, the other side is present as well.”

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