Love stories are a popular concept, but there have been a slew of cringe-inducing, cheesy romance films throughout the years which just do not have much timelessness. There are few mediums as powerful as the moving imageso as much as there is a time and place for sappy, feel-good romances, nothing beats a tear-jerking love story that tugs at our empathetic heartstrings and makes us cry. These films can ignite emotion in ways that most rom-coms and overly-sentimental flicks simply can not.
Watching a romantic tragedy triggers an emotional response because it usually refers to something very intimate or personal. Although it may not bear any resemblance to the viewer’s life, they can empathize and relate to emotions and feelings, which is what makes a movie so powerful. So when Love used two of France’s most famous but eldest actors to tackle themes of love, marriage, heartbreak and even death with unblinking, painful honesty, it’s no wonder it won an Oscar and a Palme d’Or. Get your comfort food and tear-wiping tissues ready, because here is exactly why Love is the most heartbreaking and emotional romance movie ever made.
The True Meaning of “Til Death Do Us Part”
Michael Haneke‘s film Love is not only a romance; it is a real and true depiction of the moments between two loved ones leading up to death, and is truly an unexpected masterpiece that explores what it’s tile (Love) really means. We follow the story of an elderly couple as they float through their peaceful routines, when Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke that leaves her paralyzed and her husband, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), has his love and devotion put to the test .
One of the most powerful aspects of this movie is that it forces us to confront some of life’s most difficult questions, like, “What will happen when I get old? Will there be anyone to take care of me?” Love, unlike almost any other film in cinematic history, takes us on a realistic and intimate journey of long-term love and the process of dying. The movie is a representation of a romance so strong that nothing can separate Anne and Georges, apart from death (and even that seems to require both of them). Despite being at her worst, Georges promises Anne not to hospitalize her or put her in a home, and to remain by her side, until the end. Yet, through it all, they find a little laughter throughout the darkness, and their mutual love and acceptance for each other pushes them through. It may seem hopeless from an outside perspective, but viewers can see the hope in Georges within the solace of his love.
Anne’s pain inevitably gets to be too much for her, and she tells her husband that she is tired and no longer wants to live, Georges refuses but eventually can not provide relief or comfort for her. It becomes intolerable for him to watch his wife in pain, so he ends her suffering by ending her life, not out of frustration, but out of love. For some, this (and the closing minutes) is where Love turns from romance film into pure anti-romance. The euthanasia that we witness (and viscerally experience) as an audience tests our empathy and how we perceive love; it is disturbing, and absolutely tragic, but extremely emotional and authentic, portraying the power that love holds and the absolute meaning of true love. It elicits every possible emotion in the audience watching, and if it is not the truly heartbreaking meaning of “til death do us part,” then who knows what is? It also raises questions on the real meaning of our own love, and to what extent would we go to for a loved one? How much patience and faithfulness do we have for a decline in life, like Anne’s?
Staring Death Right in the Face
Growing old can be frightening and sad. Love demonstrates that it can senility and death can sneak up on anyone when they least expect it, and Haneke’s film may be sending us a clue to live life to the fullest while we still can. It’s a somber reminder of mortality and frailty, but it’s also a beautiful representation of aging with the love of your life.
While Love sends an important message about real-life love and marriage, the themes of death and loss of a loved one are just as prevalent. Despite the couple living in harmony until the end, the reality of Georges watching his wife crumble and slowly die is arguably the most heartbreaking aspect to this movie. As we watch Georges deny the inevitable and try to prevent it from happening, we as an audience are forced to consider what happens when we slowly die and understand the profound sense of misery and desperation that we experience in old age – which is what we see when Anne is tired of being in pain and asks to finally die.
Haneke, Hope and Hopelessness
The movie is an emotional rollercoaster, because in real life, growing old and dying happens (in most cases) slowly, and as the movie progresses we see Anne’s slow deterioration. This gives the audience an extremely real experience, portraying it exactly how it would happen. It also conveys the distress that Georges has to go through, the ups and downs, the ‘good, the bad and the ugly’ of the situation. Most people who have endured the loss of a loved one will relate to the horror that Georges experiences, the heartbreaking reality of knowing death is in your orbit, and wondering how you could ever stay strong whilst knowing that death is just around the corner. It is an uncomfortable and emotionally distressing waiting game, both for Georges and the audience.
The devastating ending that viewers witness is a vision of what happens when you lose hope and accept fate, yet Love is not necessarily giving us a message, but making us ask questions. It is asking us to think about life and death and the drastic, sometimes horrific actions we take for love. It is also an illustration of the struggles of marriage and, ultimately, the heartbreaking realization of what it is like to face death and to accept death. It is possibly the most heartbreaking and emotional romance movie ever made and, like all of Michael Haneke’s films, is very controversial and brutal. Unlike his other work, however, this is neither an intellectual exercise nor a misanthropic or nihilistic provocation. This may be a dark film, but Lovelike love, has a beating, bloody heart we can all feel pumping.
Some movies may be emotional, but others completely devastate their viewers, allowing a cathartic release of pent-up emotion for a good cry.
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