In 19th Century Berlin, Heinrich von Kleist
(Christian Friedel), a writer, searches for a woman who loves him so much that she would be willing
to commit suicide along with him. He first tries to persuade his cousin, Marie (Sandra Hüller), to
join his suicide pact, but she refuses to. His next chance to find someone is when he meets
Henriette (Birte Schnöink) who's happily married to Friedrich Louis Vogel (Stephan Grossmann) and
even has a child. Henriette gradually warms up to Heinrich despite her initial reluctance, and she's soon suffers from a mysterious illness that causes her to faint.
Based on a true story, the screenplay by writer/director Jessica Hausner remains mostly minimalist when it comes to plot, but it's very rich in terms of character and period detail. She provides you with very helpful information about what's going on in the world around these characters, especially new laws that require everyone including the poor and aristocrats to be taxed. Hausner also maintains a somber mood and a slow pace which, to be fair, might take a while to get used to. Perhaps a few moments of levity would have been beneficial. Fortunately, the characters are complex enough to engage you on an emotional and even intellectual level. Heinrich may not be particularly likable given his desire to be in a suicide pact, but does have likable qualities. The evolving dynamics of his relationship with Henriette becomes increasingly fascinating and tragic---after all, tragedy makes for more interesting stories in general.
The performances from everyone, even the supporting actors, are convincingly moving and feel authentic which further helps to ground the film in realism. Also adding richness to the film is the exquisite costume design, set design and the cinematography which deserves award consideration. Many scenes have such an artful, poetic design that you might find it hard to look away. Seeing Amour Fou on the big screen might be better than the small screen just to fully appreciate all of the visuals and thereby feel more absorbed by them. This is the kind of costume drama that will linger in your mind for days, and you may want to see something more upbeat right afterward just to lift your spirits.
Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter