Amour Fou

Director: Jessica Hausner (2014)

Slow paced and painterly, this suicide drama is so still and composed it could be lying in state.

Set in Berlin in 1810, bourgeoisie life revolves embroidery, flower arranging, letter writing and music and poetry recitals, but there’s an alarming lack of laughter, fun, anger or any other emotion, though there are some quiet jokes.

Barking mad romantic poet Heinrich von Kleist (Christian Friedel) craves death and proposes a double suicide to married mother Henriette Vogel (Birte Schnöink).

Being a sensible if unadventurous soul she demurs, remaining loyal to her husband Vogel (Stephan Grossmann) a tax collector.

When she collapses at the dinner table, a tumour is discovered. Her family stoically receive the news and a succession of doctors and quacks recommend a series of cures. The least mad include fresh air, bed-rest, blood-letting and camomile tea.

When the highest medical authority Charite Medical in Berlin say it is terminal and she has a short time to live, Henriette reconsiders Heinrich’s offer. Such is the lack of engagement with any of the characters, we care little if the couple carry out their plan or not.

Taking inspiration from the works of Vermeer, cinematographer Martin Gschlacht use of light is terrific, adhering with patient dedication to the geometry of formal composition.

It consists of a series of tableaux where everyone acts from the neck up and every shot is arranged with immaculate formal precision. This serves to reinforce the rigid social etiquette.

With sound editing and mixing successfully evoking a wider world outside the home, it’s a shame Amour Fou has no compelling drama to support its impressive technical achievements.

★☆☆☆

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