The film Amour is a riveting, heroic treatment of end-of-life terminal illness. The film drives home just how far “Til death do us part” can take us. A major film in 1967, A Man and a Woman evoked the primal, timeless romance of mature adults falling in love, even as it appeared under the dizzying spell of the Summer of Love… Now the same lead actor, Jean Louis Trintignant, who played the young single dad in that film, appears in Amour as the aging husband. Again he displays the same pathos–now in the final phase of a long enduring relationship.
My daughter Camille wrote this article which I pass on in her own words: I grew up with two sets of grandparents who always stood by their spouses—from their teen years well into their nineties, and I saw how much love can grow while the human body deteriorates. At age 11, I remember hearing a rabbi tell a wedding couple that they needed to take care of each other even more than their own children. I took it to heart. So thinking of love in the long term, I was able to see Amour as the true romantic story that it is.
I started anticipating my mommy role very young—ltending to an infant’s needs in a way that my future husband would never require. That together, we would nurture babies to survive their beginning stages of life.
Equally an avid romantic, I still never thought about how long life would be with one’s betrothed. Books and magazines teach us about an infant’s stages and how to foster their growth and development. We are hard-wired for that. But there is much less focus on tending to our aging spouses. While parents can decipher their infants’ babblings when no one else can, they may not have the skill to understand their spouse’s babblings at the end of life. Aging and death are not as predictable as the first stages of life. We all age and die at such different rates. Many people spend life’s last third in fear and worry about how to slow the pace of aging and inevitable death. But as a culture, we generally have very little preparation to face this unknown final moment. And the decline towards the inevitable passing can drag on for a very long, long time.
After a relationship endures and prospers– through the many stages of love, life and child rearing, then, just as there is finally time alone for each other, age sets in. In the final years we can come full circle and become the infant we started out as, dependent on another. Therein lies the cruel nature of romance captured in Amour. As we grow old with our less stable life partner, we must rise to the challenge of attaining even higher levels of compassion–truly love in action, more than we did as parents. This is the stage when we see our own mortality and face the fact that we might have been the first one to be dependent. And we may wonder who will take care of us? It is then that true intimacy occurs which no one else sees.
Our culture avoids looking at the decrepitude of the aged. We no longer give the respect to elders that was an earmark of past generations. Mindless youth forgets to look forward far enough, or feels uncomfortable being reminded of their own future deterioration. So for those who have walked each step with their partner, there exists a special bond. Only the one who has stuck through all those years along side their Love and were a witness to their life, knows how deep love can go. This film brings this message home in a powerful way. A great life lesson for us all. The power of unconditional love.