PARIS, France, June 4, 2012, ( – Last Sunday, the Cannes film festival awarded the coveted Palme d’Or award to a film that portrays the “mercy killing” of an incapacitated loved one in a positive light. The prestigious and highbrow festival, which prides itself on honoring “edgy” films, selected Austrian director Michael Haneke’s film Amour (“Love”) for the prize late last month.

Amour tells the story of “Georges” (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and “Anne” (Emmanuelle Riva), a loving married couple who share a common past as music-teachers and are sharing a harmonious old age. Their life is shattered when Anne has two strokes in rapid succession that leave her bedridden, incontinent, and increasingly oblivious to her surroundings.

The couple’s daughter, a successful young woman (Isabelle Huppert), comes home to find her mother enjoying a radically lower quality of life. She argues with her father, who never stops lovingly caring for his once vivacious and cultivated wife, who is now a mere “vegetable” suffering in bed.


When Anne’s suffering becomes too intense, Georges smothers her with a pillow until she dies.

Jean-Louis Trintignant, who is a personal supporter of euthanasia, explains: “When Anne first really wants to die, Georges stops her. But later, in a calm moment, he helps her by killing her.”

On receiving his Palme d’Or in Cannes, Haneke told the audience: “This film is an illustration of the promise we made to each other, my wife and I.”

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Many critics were touched by the fidelity and devotion of the husband and surprised by the film’s tone. Haneke’s former productions depicted the torture and murder of a middle-class family by two psychotic young men in Funny Games and the troubled sexuality of a middle-aged woman who performs masochistic self-mutilations in The Piano Teacher.

The overwhelming majority of French film critics had only praise for Haneke’s “romantic” award-winning film. Many of them refrained from mentioning its somber end so as not to give away the plot; only a handful raised the moral question posed by the film .

Speaking with American journalists, Haneke agreed that the film would probably provoke intense debate and protests from some quarters in the United States when it comes out in November. “That’s exactly what films are supposed to do,” he said.