Hiroshima Mon Amour (Hiroshima, My Love) (1959)
Alain Resnais's multi-award-winning Hiroshima, Mon Amour is neither an easy film to watch nor to synopsize, but it remains one of the high-water marks of the French "new wave" movement. Resnais and scenarist Marguerite Duras weave a complex story concerning a French actress's (Emmanuelle Riva) experiences in occupied France, juxtaposed with the horrendous ordeal of a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) coping psychologically with the bombing of Hiroshima. These stories are offered in quick flashback vignettes, which permeate the contemporary story of the woman's relationship with the architect in contemporary Hiroshima. The characters are of the Then and the Now simultaneously, much like the famous watch that was dug out of the ruins of Hiroshima, its hands permanently affixed at 9:15. Resnais refuses to honor the traditional "unities" of film: we are never certain at any time whether we're watching the events of 1959 or of 1945. In truth, Hiroshima Mon Amour is not quite as inscrutable as certain critics would have us believe (the central theme of the importance of coming to grips with one's past comes through loud and clear), but it confused many filmgoers upon its first release, some of whom gave up the picture as a bad job and steered clear of all future Resnais efforts. Viewers are strongly encouraged to stay with this one from beginning to end; it won't be a smooth ride, but it will be an immensely rewarding one. … More
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Critic Reviews for Hiroshima Mon Amour (Hiroshima, My Love)
If "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" is best enjoyed for its place in film history, its tragic love story and its haunting black-and-white cinematography, that still makes it a veritable must-see.
"Hiroshima Mon Amour" will always be too studied a masterwork for some tastes. But Riva's performance, chief among its triumphs, remains electrifying.
That rare movie in which present and past meld in every frame to convey a sense of time obliterated, or a dream having a nightmare.
The first film to juxtapose disastrous erotic passion with the political disasters of the mid century.
The facticity of the film itself is continually called into question by Alain Resnais's decision to blur the boundaries between nonfiction and fiction films.
[VIDEO ESSAY] Alain Resnais's early addition to the Nouvelle Vague cannon finds his pair of culturally diverse lovers of rising from the rubble of World War II.
I can't say I really enjoyed myself watching Hiroshima mon amour. Resnais' style is deliberately off-putting - the thought of entertaining an audience seems repugnant to him - but I respect the film for its audacious storytelling.
Though made in the late 50s, Hiroshima's imagery and music give it a feel at once modern and timeless, this is a beautiful piece of work.
It's one of the landmark French New Wave films that featured innovative flashback techniques.
Resnais' audacious work in narrative and temporal structure, with screenplay from Duras, the film has endured due to its lyrical quality in depicting a love affair between a French actress and a Japanese architect in post WWII; a must-see for film lovers
Landmark French New Wave film--a must for movie buffs
A somewhat stilted but still emotionally and intellectually engaging glimpse at profound and challenging questions of the role of memory in our sense of identity.
Resnais is one of the few true directors to evoke such a cerebral cinema.
Although it presents, on occasion, a baffling repetition of words and ideas, much like vaguely recurring dreams, it, nevertheless, leaves the impression of a careful coalescence of art and craftsmanship.
Audience Reviews for Hiroshima Mon Amour (Hiroshima, My Love)
"Hiroshima Mon Amour" (1959), Alain Resnais' debut feature length project is a baffling film, one that is extremely difficult to even summarize in a synopsis!
We are (almost) introduced to two characters in a passionate clinch, their faces not shown, conversing with one another, although it is mostly a one-sided conversation. The woman keeps saying things about knowing, and seeing Hiroshima closely, while the man keeps interjecting and contradicting her. She insists that she has seen and remembers a lot about Hiroshima but he contradicts her again saying that she is "not endowed with memory"! The conversation happens against a strange background score, and shocking visuals, some of which is part of actual documentary footage of the irreparable damage done to human life and property during the tragic Hiroshima bombings of 1945. The woman continues to talk; although at this point of time we aren't sure exactly which year it is set in, whether during the war or much after it!
The camera glides across corridors of hospitals, bombing sites, showcasing bodies of dead and deformed children, further moving into the homes of survivors who are rendered only half humans, losing hair rapidly, yet trying their best to survive despite being crippled and deformed for life! The visuals of the grisly aftermath keep getting displayed, as almost impassive voiceovers continue to narrate away for the first few minutes.
Soon we cut away from the nightmare-like tone of the initial few minutes and are shown the faces of the conversing couple. A French woman and a Japanese man have just spent the night together. The woman, an actress who hails from Nevers, France, is in Hiroshima to shoot for some scenes in a film she is starring in, while the Japanese man is an architect.
Believe it or not, the rest of the film is like one lengthy conversation with repeated ramblings, sometimes deadpan, sometimes over-emotional, between these two individuals who, after making love one night, find that they are madly in love with each other! Some of the conversation seems random and meaningless, some quite forlorn, while most of it sheds light on the dark past of the woman, particularly revolving around her failed romance.
It is from this vague conversation that one can try and draw some inference as to the central idea of the film. Only on a broad level, it is safe to say, that juxtaposed against the tragedy at Hiroshima, a prominent theme in the film is that of undying love; the loss of loved one(s), and most importantly the memory of such love (or tragedy) that continues to haunt an individual.
In one bizarre scene, the lengthiest, perhaps, shot in a bar, the woman, who appears to be a rather fragile, emotionally wounded individual, has a few hours left with the man, before she returns to France. She reminisces in a drunken state, about her first love affair with a German soldier, who got killed. Only we aren't really sure if it's a dream she is narrating or a past, for she seems to be talking in present tense. There are a lot of flashback scenes interspersed, disturbing ones at that, describing how she was punished by confinement to a cellar and having her head shaved off! The woman gets hysterical, cries out loud, gets slapped by the man, then calms down again, constantly narrating the events, referring to the Japanese man as part of the story, although it is actually about the German soldier! During the time he keeps pouring drinks for her and listening to her story, the Japanese man keeps reiterating how much he is in love with her and would like to be with her!
It's all befuddling but you do find yourself giving in to the strange but strikingly original narrative. There's this soul-stirring background music score, top-notch cinematography, a partially great atmosphere, moody story-telling style, and the use of quick flash backs (a strong influence of the French New Wave). The acting is superlative all the way, by the two leads, most especially Emmanuelle Riva for her spellbinding performance, considering the camera mostly captures every expression on her face for a long time. And finally, there's a sheer uniqueness about "Hiroshima Mon Amour" that makes it a film that deserves great admiration.
Only this this film is no "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961), that stupendous surrealist dreamscape of a film that Resnais followed this up with, and made use of some of the devices used in "Hiroshima Mon Amour" to a significantly greater effect.
Despite a well-written screenplay by Marguerite Duras, "Hiroshima Mon Amour", nevertheless, oscillates between extremely surreal on one hand to extremely documentary-like real on the other, which lets it down slightly. It would've perhaps benefited more, had there been some consistency in its mood. Moreover, it certainly seems a tad long and repetitive even for its modest 90 min length and could've actually been much more accessible if cut short by at least 15 minutes.
Remarkable though; an essential film outing.
Alain Resnais' Hiroshima, Mon Amour is a captivating cogitation on the power of memory.
From the opening shots of Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the long mesmeric tracking shots bring to mind Resnais's previous film, Night and Fog. Also shot on location, the first part of Hiroshima, Mon Amour feels like a documentary as shots of the Hiroshima memorial are juxtaposed with newsreel footage of the actual victims of the disaster. Yet unlike Night and Fog, the documentary doesn't feel objective, but rather personal & distant. Here Resnais displays the inability to cope with a horror of this magnitude. He even shows clips of a Japanese reenactment as part of this woman's mental process in the mueseum, which serves to show how the woman will never know the extent of the tragedy and her thoughts of it are reduced to vapid and shallow conjecture.
It is a film about memory and identity. The film revolves around two lovers who wish to escape the horrors of their past but still retain the beauty which they previously experienced. It is about the necessity of forgetfulness, but also the overwhelming fear that accompanies it.
Resnais also focuses a lot on the skin of the lovers which highlights the frailty of man, which was a crucial idea during the filming of this in 1958 when the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union was ubiquitous.
Although some scenes feel rather laborious to get through, it is a very important film and one that is bound to stir up many emotions in the viewer.
A French actress shooting a film about peace in Hiroshima meets a Japanese man in a bar. They decide to go together. They fall in love. The woman describes to the man her past in France: her adolescence, her first love, her first loss, her madness.
The backdrop of Hiroshima, Mon Amour, is obviously the horrors left behind by the atomic bomb. The woman herself acknowledges the irony of falling in love in a place like that. The images of disease and misery, in contrast with the lovers', constitutes a great deal of the poetry the film involves.
Throughout most of the story, both characters are shown in moments of intimacy: either having face-to-face conversations, or in bed, sharing their deepest secrets and most bizarre thoughts. In a way, their love is born out of interest, or need: both characters have survived tragedies (linked also to the war in one way or another), and that particular point in common is what brings them together. They find in each other a space of trust to let out their pain. They re-imagine the situations of their past including the other: their connection is so profound that it seems, as they often repeat, impossible to envision life without the other.
Hiroshima Mon Amour is a very experimental, poetic film. Alain Resnais's masterpiece is the precursor of such beautiful films as Before Sunrise, or Lost in Translation, or A Man and a Woman, only that the waters here run deeper and darker. Resnais shapes his characters out of the cries and the loss of World War II, showing his audience just how much damage the conflict caused. Thousands of stories of abandonment behind the faces of 2 characters. At the same time, it's also a film that exemplifies with unbelievable beauty the possible randomness of empathy: The relationship between the leads is unforgettable, epic, transcending chemistry or compatibility. But why in Hiroshima? Why this man, or this woman? Why now? Resnais manipulates their memories, their perceptions, time, and space, to create one of the most intense love stories I've ever seen onscreen, even when the most evident expression of physical love he allows himself to show is but a kiss.
The image of the woman's hand on the man's back is an icon of French new wave, and one of the most significant representations of intimacy world cinema has ever produced.
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