on 3 January 2007
In 1959 a French actress, in Hiroshima for an anti-war film, has what she thinks will be a one-night stand with a Japanese man but it leads her into revisiting and re-evaluating the loss she feels from her very first relationship - with a German soldier of the occupying forces in France.
In black and white with an almost noir-ish look, you will love this if development of character interests you. If you want an obvious storyline, you will be disappointed. I was gripped.
Initially Hiroshima,Mon Amour was commissioned to be a documentary like the 26 that had preceded it,all commissioned,instead it became a work of fiction.This is a complex film exploring themes of time and memory.It's also highly political and literary,based as it is on a script by Maguerite Duras,set in both Japan and France, using both a Japanese actor Eiji Okada and a French actor,Emmanuelle Riva.Set in the present( 1950sJapan),concerns a love affair between 2 unnamed married people,`he' and `she'who meet at various points during the woman's final 24 hours before she returns to France.She is an actor making a film in Hiroshima about peace and he an architect. Within the main love affair is entwined another love affair set in France,in the town of Nevers,towards the end of WWII,told in flashbacks remembered by the woman,however they could be his or hers imaginings or fantasies.
The 2nd love affair is the story of her affair with a young German soldier during the occupation.Their affair is uncovered,he is shot,she publicly humiliated by the townspeople and imprisoned in a cellar by her parents,allowed to leave at the war's end at night.Within the 2 stories is inserted footage of Hiroshima,newsreel taken shortly after the bomb dropped,or artefacts collected from the bombsite on display.Too big for a documentary although it is about Hiroshima,it is not about it in the conventional sense,for that see Black Rain(1989,Kuroi ame),a more conventional film,a family trying to build their lives in the aftermath and the effects of the fallout.Resnais' film is about the universal human experience of suffering,the 2 stories show how memories of our own suffering which cause us pain,allow us to know how it feels when other people suffer.She saw her own suffering multiplied. She is also one of the victims of the fallout,having her own hair cut off,rather than fall out due to radiation.As time passes memories fade,she begins to forget.Nevers merges with Hiroshima,both are condemned to forgetting,in betrayal of the past,in hope of survival of the future.
Resnais breaks with the codes of classic Hollywood,using flash-backs,voice-over narration,ellipsis and repetition. We are at a loss to know how the sound and images relate,whether the narration is a fragment of a dialogue spoken in the present,in the past or as part of an interior monologue.We don't know truth from fiction in the voice-over and associated flashbacks and to whom they belong.Resnais only shows the middle of the story,not how they met or how their affair ends.The characters are kept at a distance from us,remain cold and aloof,giving spectators a more Brechtian persective,obscure art film characters,like symbols in a poem on the impermanence of memory,we narrate over and over,trying to elucidate the elusive essence.There are nods to Orphee in the timelessness of time,the descent in a trance-like state of dream.Playing the loop over and over again.
on 10 September 2009
A highly referential, symbolic love affair forms the core Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, set against the backdrop of the title city. The opening shots of naked, interlocked bodies (although only the shoulders are visible) establish a persistent thread of understated eroticism. Gradually the lovers become covered by a fine coat of what looks like snow, whereas it is actually radioactive dust blown from the nuclear holocaust. In the throes of sexual excitement, the Elle begins a discourse on her Hiroshima fixation. All her partner Lui can do is refute her claims of having seen the bomb, effectively negating her past.
Thus an underlying structure, which depends on contrasts, is revealed beneath the simple two-day love story. They met - she's a French film actress and he's a Japanese architect - by chance and immediately felt an attraction between them, which could only be satisfied carnally. Their overwhelming passion and depth of feeling for one another is a situation which occurs only infrequently, when two individuals can mesh into a unified whole. However, they are both happily married and understand that the romance is doomed. Strangely and significantly, Elle has been in much the same situation before, with a German soldier, providing a striking parallel with the present.
The relating of Elle's first love to Lui, and the consequences of it, highlights only a single contrast, that of past and present. Hiroshima mon amour seeks to be more philosophical than this though, discovering parallels between joy/despair and society/individual to name two. This analysis of the subtext opens the film to a much wider level of interpretation, on everything from the futility of conflict to whether it is best to realise true desire for an instant, rather than never having been presented with the temptation in the first place.
The overall tone of Hiroshima mon amour is one of torture and exorcism, the painful knowledge that eventually all of these shared moments will be forgotten. Then, with the dissipation of memory, oblivion of our very souls and substance is inevitable in those who knew us. This is a terrifically depressing thought but there are at least a few moments of illumination in the darkness. Their love, free from spousal recrimination, is fulfilling and unweighed by ulterior motives - a meeting of equals. The look on their faces as they share a private joke is to be treasured, yet this pleasure is fleeting.
The transitory nature of existence is forcefully presented by inter-cutting the early scenes with post-bombing stills and quasi-realistic newsreel footage. A powerful combination of sound and image for sure, although the general effect is nebulous, opaque and inscrutable. It's impossible to attain a concrete feel for the characters because that's the aim of Hiroshima mon amour. Nothing is easy when metaphors and emotional associations are involved.
An alternative viewpoint is that this profound and disturbing piece of work is no more meaningful than a blank piece of paper - that the whole construct is mere pseudo-intellectual posturing, obscure because it contains nothing of substance. The beauty is that Hiroshima mon amour can take these accusations of pretentiousness as easily as unbounded compliments because it is, and always will be, a film which can only be judged personally.
on 23 July 2012
I saw this movie in the cinema at the age of 18 and was strongly affected by it.
Forty six years later I bought the DVD and watched it again.
It still bites !
Part love story, part anti-war movie, it deals with a chance meeting between two apparently successful people who are very damaged underneath. Their difficult path towards some sort of future is moving and often uncomfortable to watch.
At no point do you know what's going to happen next. Hollywood, it isn't.
I doubt I'll watch it a third time, but I'm really glad I got the DVD.
When, a few years ago I was first getting into "foreign" movies, I had bought this DVD, mainly because my Halliwells Film Guide rated it so highly. It was so outstandingly daring and different to anything I'd ever seen, I was totally immersed in both its ugliness and yes, its sheer beauty.
I wanted to give it 10/10 on the IMDB, but chickened out and settled for 9. From the very opening gritty black & white of the intertwined limbs of the lovers, artistically exploring each other like uncoiling snakes and then the inter-cut of a scarred and scorched fatality of the Hiroshima bomb, then the sober and poetic voice-over of a French woman....
Yes, I was hooked and I am again, five years later, viewing again for the second time. I've many, many more world cinema films under my belt these days and my knowledge of them has expanded enormously, but Hiroshima Mon Amour will always hold a special place within me.
It might be the photographer in me - some of images and compositions are absolutely arresting - and I'm not talking about the highly detailed studies of human deformity or of singed corpses either, or perhaps the poet in me. There is a clockwork pace of languid calm about it all, that is highly compelling - the Japanese architect and the French actress talking openly, candidly, slowly, as only lovers seem to be able to do in the best films, about their lives. Her experiences in France. Her previous loves.
There's a real sense of Carl von Dreyer's superb sense of simplicity and harrowed beauty plus a Francois Truffaut gift for storytelling. That this is Alain Resnais' first film is quite extraordinary.
The title, is so apt - It is a love story, a beautiful one and also a terrible one. Sometimes you really do have to travel to 'hell-on-earth' to fully appreciate love and beauty. France itself (this is a French film - and in the French language) is a major nuclear weapon super-power now and the feeling of guilt by association that the viewer feels is nerve-wrenchingly poignant at times, keeping one on edge. How the new architecture that is rebuilding Hiroshima from its ashes is both interesting and strange; how it conflicts with its past but is equally, its future. How the pastoral peace of France that we see in her memories compete - and compare with where she is now - and what she is doing.
I'm not going to tell everyone to buy it; many will be repulsed by some of the distressing imagery, though this is featured mostly at the beginning, so in this matter, it does get easier. Some will be put off by the measured pace, the floating cameras, the dreamy sense of 'are we there, or not?'
It might well be another five years before I see Hiroshima Mon Amour again - like tonight it won't be planned, it'll be impromptu but somehow, I'm looking forward to it already.
on 23 May 2014
This is a strong and powerful film with an excellent cast, a love story with the horrors of the bomb informing it. Sadly it is still relevant, but enjoyable nevertheless.
on 18 June 2016
Mysterious, multilayered and disorienting, the past and present blurring. A disturbing exploration of emotions and the absence of them.
on 3 November 2015
This is quite simply one of the most moving, beautiful films I have ever seen.
on 22 April 2016
Great blu ray edition except that subtitles aren't removable.
on 19 December 2012
A beautifully photographed film. Rather mysterious at first. You can't tell what is really going on. The two actors, French and Japanese tell the story, but the viewer is shocked by real footage from the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima - almost unwatchable. This is an art film, not a blockbuster, but it stays with me all the time, even after 3 viewings.