#196 Hiroshima mon amour
1959 // France // Alain Resnais
Criterion Release Date: 14 July 2015 (LINK)
Two anonymous bodies, face unseen, caressing each other tenderly with flakes of ashes fallen upon them. A voice of a Japanese man (Eiji Okada) said in French “You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing.” A French woman (Emmanuelle Riva) replied “I saw everything. Everything.”
In Hiroshima mon amour, Alain Resnais’s first full-length feature, we saw everything, and we saw nothing. The dubious ambiguity, the dialectical indeterminacy, the indistinguishable unity between virtuality and reality, past and present, memory and imagination, fiction and non-fiction, together compose a non-linear structure interwoven by Marguerite Duras’s oblique literature narrative threads.
Partly meditative monologue, partly philosophical conversation, the dialogues continue and superimpose with the documentary-like footage of the reconstructed Hiroshima. Tracking shot of hospital’s corridor or city streets, exhibits of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, reenactment of the immediate aftermath of the atomic bomb explosion, the perpetual agony and undressed scar of atrocity recalls Night and Fog, Resnais’s previous short documentary on Holocaust.
The Japanese man and French woman, unnamed in the entire film, woke up after their one-night stand in the woman’s hotel. She is an actress working on a film, about peace (otherwise what else?), in Hiroshima; he is an architect, interested in politic. She is going to leave Japan the following day, he wants her to stay. Hiroshima mon amour is a story within 24 hours, to them, it’s eternity. Insofar as the film is a love story (no the film can’t be just defined in any single genre), it’s a love that should never happen in the first place, or should never end afterwards.
She urged “I have time. I beg you. Devour me. Deform me, make me ugly. Why not you? Why not you, in this city and on this night, so indistinguishable from any other? I beg you.” It’s destined to be doomed, an impossible love. Why in Hiroshima, a place that was punished for human’s crime of war fourteen years ago, would a love blossom to no avail? She was emotionally overwhelmed by the sight of a peace march, a reminder of the world in constant invisible nuclear threat. Her memory in Nevers, her first love and lost lover in Nevers, was projected onto the land of Hiroshima, her present time and space.
Her memory is shattered, recalled in fragments. The Japanese man then took up the role of her dead lover, urging her to retell her memory in a river-side cafe. She fell in love with a German solider during the war, but he was killed by suffering from a prolonged gunshot wound. “Like you, I have fought with all my might not to forget. Like you, I have forgotten.” The remembrance of things past also signifies the chance of forgetting, an obliteration to nothingness. Wherein Hiroshima is the concomitant place of remembrance and loss of that particular memory, the flame of the bombing.
At the end of the film, she said “Hi-ro-shi-ma. Hiroshima. That is your name.”, and he answered “Yes, that is my name. And your name is Nevers. Nevers, in France.” Their identities foresee their destiny, either engraved into the history, or lose in human memory. And like the film itself, they would be remembered forever and ever.