You could easily forgive someone for mistaking Amour Fou for a depressing, static and emotionless film which is impenetrable and difficult to engage with. That’s because it is just that, though it is for good reason.
It tells the story of a poet who wants to end the eternal ailment of his ‘life’ by sharing in its ending with someone who is similarly afflicted with his pessimistic outlook. After being spurned by his first choice he begins to focus on Henriette (Birte Schoeink) as his muse, who at first seems the opposite of melancholy.
The film is deliberately distancing in its technique; a muted palette, lack of non-diagetic music and queer camera angles serve to mirror the depression at the heart of the story. Director Jessica Hausner uses framing in a similar manner to Wes Anderson (although not as often) to give an odd level of unreality to the picture, objects appear distortedly centralised as if to emphasise the unusual or incorrect outlook on the world its central characters have. Although effective, it isn’t just the camera which evokes this melancholy subject matter but its lack of ‘emotion’ – or at least in the hollywood sense of the word.
The characters interact through poems, and songs to show their outlook on the world and to demonstrate their inner feelings; it is a compelling approach to the topic. There are no tears, no explosive arguments, just muted discussion and veils of art and music hiding the bubbling emotions beneath.
Amour Fou is by no means a masterpiece, but it has a lot to offer and certainly leaves your brain thoroughly tickled by some engaging discussion. Rarely is depression dealt with in such a realistic way on film, and though the story which surrounds this central theme is a little bloated, this core of self-containment, lack of engagement and greyish palette shows a keen understanding of a topic which is far more complex than many films seem to think.