My review of Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou is over at Flickering Myth.
Berlin, the Romantic Era. Young poet Heinrich wishes to conquer the inevitability of death through love. After initially being refused to form a suicide pact with his cousin, he meets the young and impressionable romantic Henriette, the wife of a business acquaintance…
The delicately balanced Amour Fou treads a fine line between soul-baring emotional drama and delightfully slick deadpan black comedy. Developing its characters’ whims and motivations at a languid pace, this alternative take on a rom-com allows for a depth of artistry in backgrounds, details and composition.
Focusing on young poet Heinrich’s (Christian Friedel) wish to instil a sense of meaning in his privileged and comfortable life through love and ultimately death, the central premise of the film does not sound like much of an easy ride. However, the beautifully shot and drawn scenes provide plenty of compelling and amusing portraits of early 19th Century Berlin life.
Based on the true story of the poet Heinrich von Kleist, who in 1811 found a drastic way of simultaneously entering the history books and gaining some romantic meaning to life, Jessica Hausner’s (Lourdes) film is a sharp look at obsession. It is pretty hard to feel too much sympathy for Heinrich; he can only tempt himself to go through with his plans when a ‘love’ takes the bullet first. Still, he certainly had ambition…
Friedel’s portrayal brings out these ambiguities extremely well, but when the film shifts its pitch slightly to concentrate on the young wife and mother Henriette (Birte Schnoenik) it finds even more of a disturbing edge. Previously happy with her work and family, when a terminal illness casts a pall over her, Kleist’s morbid wooing begins to hold an attraction for her.
It is this dual pull of death and the possibility of a different sort of love that is at the heart of the film, and it is one that is explored with a poetic lightness of touch. ‘Crazy love’ indeed.