Pro-Life Perspective: Amour’s “Gendered Euthanasia”

Editor’s note. This can be heard at

amourMovie reviewers don’t carry the same weight they once did during the glory days of people like Gene Siskal and Roger Ebert. But if there are no longer the stars there used to be, there are still lesser “planets” such as Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post.

The French import “Amour” was #10 on Hornaday’s list of the top ten films of 2013. “Amour” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and garnered four other Oscar nominations. Hornaday’s  summary of her own longer review includes this: “Michael Haneke’s technically flawless, emotionally devastating drama about an elderly couple facing illness and death was part of an encouraging trend this year in surprisingly honest depictions of aging…”

From Hornaday’s full-blown review, we’re instructed that Haneke is “a notoriously gimlet-eyed filmmaker whose austere style and facile pessimism often has been mistaken for philosophical depth. But with ‘Amour,’ Haneke seems to be making a genuine step toward humanism, tempering his usual chilly sense of superiority with discretion and empathy,”

Wow. This about the director of such an incredibly violent, sadistic film as “Funny Games.”

But if you’ve read Amy Hasbrouck’s enlightening piece “Amour and Fear: Assisted Suicide at the Oscars,” you know that Hornaday is wrong on about every count you could imagine. Hasbrouck’s piece appeared on the website of Not Dead Yet, a disability rights organization opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. Hasbrouck writes that “Amour” is still another depressing illustration of a familiar – and malicious – myth: that of the gentle, loving husband who, out of “compassion,” kills his afflicted wife.

Adding to Hasbrouck’s review, we have Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s review of the film in The Guardian newspaper which ran under the headline: “Amour: how can we embrace a film that is so clearly an advert[isement] for euthanasia?”

Gullette, a resident scholar at Brandeis University, looks at the film through a feminist theoretician’s eyes, but also as the author of “Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America.” Her insights are very much worth reading.

What’s most important for our discussion and Gullette’s review, is how the film so heavily stacks the deck in favor of euthanasia. By making the husband, Georges, seemingly such a pillar of loving devotion to his wife, Anne, as her health declines, smothering her with a pillow seems both shockingly unexpected, but “understandable.”

In one of Gullette’s key insights, she writes:

“One of the implicit convictions of the film is that a carer [care giver] – even one as assiduous as Jean-Louis Trintignant’s Georges – will crack under the strain of caring for a stroke victim. Georges is so devoted for so long that only two scenes prepare for his emotional breakdown. One is when he slaps her. The other is a dream, foretelling violence. Georges is walking down his hallway, which is filling up with water, when he is attacked from behind by a hand over his nose and mouth. Who would not retaliate to such a brutal home invasion (which is what Anne in her changed state now represents)? This scene even foreshadows the way he will kill her, smothering her.”

Gullette asks many very disturbing questions, including would the film have been such a success in art houses if it had been a wife killing a husband? Have we become soft on and accepting of what Gullette astutely labels “gendered euthanasia”?

Indeed, are we rapidly accommodating ourselves to the lethal conclusion that at a certain age or condition, men and women (and especially women) really ARE better off dead and that we almost have an obligation to “expedite” their passing?

Then there is Gullette’s disturbingly accurate final paragraph:

“..[W]e have a film detailing Georges’ protracted caregiving so respectfully and Anne’s decline so cruelly that it becomes hard to disagree with Georges’ masochistic choices, or even notice that he has broken down. It presents a nonconsensual termination of life as a solution for the carer: it justifies euthanasia. That such a film has been so widely acclaimed while remaining so ill-examined is a dangerous thing.”