A Minute With: Michael Haneke and the story behind "Amour"

Wed Feb 13, 2013 5:30am EST
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Austrian director Michael Haneke said his stark drama "Amour," which has scored a surprising five Oscar nominations including for Best Picture, was inspired by his own experiences dealing with an aged aunt facing death.

The unflinching take on devotion, growing old and illness has also picked up Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Foreign Film and Best Actress for Emmanuelle Riva's performance as bed-ridden Anne.

Haneke, who is also known for 2001's "The Piano Teacher" and 1997's "Funny Games" and its 2007 Hollywood remake, is the favorite to win the Best Foreign Film award for which he was nominated in 2010 for "The White Ribbon."

Haneke, 70, spoke to Reuters from Madrid, where he is directing the Mozart opera "Cosi Fan Tutte," about the film, what it would mean to win an Oscar, and his future plans.

Q: What do you make of some of the critics who, in their praise, have called the drama a horror film for its graphic portrayal of the end of life?

A: I believe that it has been a bit exaggerated how the film has been portrayed. The film is shocking, but the truth is always shocking. It's no walk in the park, but it's difficult and serious, and that makes it contemplative. I assume that I have an adult audience and that they'll understand the situation. The film shouldn't be a distraction (from life) - as many films are - but the film is also not meant to shock.

Q: What intentions did you set out with?

A: I wanted to make a film about how we deal with the suffering of the people that we love. I could've certainly made a film about a couple married for 40 years with a child who dies of cancer. That would only be a tragic, singular case and less representative. But we all grow old and nearly all of us get sick and that subject matter is more general and concerns nearly everyone one of us.   Continued...

Director Michael Haneke, Golden Globe winner for best foreign film "Amour" arrives at the HBO after-party following the 70th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 13, 2013. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas