In tribute to Emmanuelle Riva

Annette Insdorf, Fabien Constant, and Stig Björkman on the celebrated star of Amour.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Emmanuelle Riva with Vanessa Redgrave and Michael Barker for Michael Haneke's Amour
Emmanuelle Riva with Vanessa Redgrave and Michael Barker for Michael Haneke's Amour Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Emmanuelle Riva, César, Lumière, and BAFTA Best Actress winner and Oscar nominee for Michael Haneke's Best Foreign Language Film winner Amour died at the age of 89 on Friday, January 27, 2017 in Paris.

Riva's performance with Eiji Okada in Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour in 1959 cuts so sharply to the truth about love and war that even after many viewings it is difficult to fully grasp the film's historical significance, storytelling innovations and stylistic brilliance.

Emmanuelle Riva in the hands of Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour
Emmanuelle Riva in the hands of Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour

Annette Insdorf, Professor in the Graduate Film Program of Columbia’s School of the Arts, Mademoiselle C director Fabien Constant, and Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words director Stig Björkman sent their remembrances.

"I consider Emmanuelle Riva one of the greatest actors of the past 60 years. I last saw her on Closing Night of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, when the Jury awarded the Palme d'Or to Michael Haneke's Amour. Just before the ceremony, I told her that I show her films to appreciative students in my classes at Columbia University. Riva acknowledged that the word 'love' is central to the magisterial films that seem to bookend her career, namely Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour in 1959, and Amour. (She also played the mother of Juliette Binoche’s protagonist in Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Blue.) When I told her I was affected by Amour precisely because the film doesn’t go for easy tears, she said, “Michael’s point of departure was ‘no sentimentality.’” Emmanuelle Riva's body of work is marked by grace." - Annette Insdorf

Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima Mon Amour
Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima Mon Amour

"I just want to say that Emmanuelle Riva changed cinema. Nothing less. This little fragile body, almost like a bird, was such a strong and powerful actress. One day the world discovered that we can talk different, we can think different, we can love different and we can cover the still painful wounds of the recent war differently. Hiroshima mon amour changed all that. The cinema will never be the same after. And she is such a huge part of this drastic revolution. Her voice (the way she talked meaning every Marguerite Duras words), her strength, her beauty. How modern she was. How daring she was to love this Japanese man and to accept those love scenes (among the most beautiful ever) on screen. I also love her facing Jean Paul Belmondo in Leon Morin, prêtre. She was one of a few cerebral actresses able to express their demanding souls with their bodies. The quiet strength. The drop of water creating tsunamis of emotions. I was so happy she had such a recognition for the Haneke movie (Amour). She did amazing till the end. She will be missed." - Fabien Constant

"Already with 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour' Emmanuelle Riva became 'Emmanuelle, Mon Amour' until she appropriately ended her great career with just 'Amour'." - Stig Björkman

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