Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

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Directed by Alain Resnais
Written by Marguerite Duras
1959/France/Japan
Argos Films/Como Films/Daiei Studios/Pathe Entertainment
First viewing/Netflix rental
#358 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Elle: Like you, I have fought with all my might not to forget. Like you, I have forgotten.

Alain Resnais’ debut feature is an exquisite meditation on loss and memory.

The setting is 1958 Hiroshima.  The characters are known only as Elle (She) (Emanuelle Rivas) and Lui (He) (Eiji Okada).  She is in town to act in an international peace film.  She has a husband and children in Paris.  He has a wife on vacation.  They meet and enjoy a night of unexpected bliss.  He thinks he loves her and wants her to stay.

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The intensity of their love and desire awakens long suppressed memories of her first love. During the war, the eighteen-year-old had a passionate romance with a German soldier in her hometown of Nevers.  As the war ended, he was killed and she was publicly shamed for consorting with the enemy.  The affair and the setting provide a catalyst for her to come to terms with her pain.

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This movie is a visual and auditory feast.  The images and score have perhaps more impact than the words.

Yet it is also a thought-provoking.  Resnais was asked to make a film about Hiroshima but the tragedy was too big to grasp in mere celluloid.  Instead we focus on a personal tragedy.  Coupled with the setting, the story gets us closer to the grief and loss brought about by the bomb and more globally.  Rivas is fantastic, both as the modern woman and as the young girl in the many flashbacks.  Recommended.

Restoration trailer

4 thoughts on “Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

    • I know exactly what you mean. Last Year in Marienbad affected me that way but for some reason this one didn’t bother me as much.

  1. I am reminded of a quote from Ace in the Hole that goes something like A million dead is statistics, one man trapped in a mine is a tragedy. It may something like this is what Resnais is aiming for.

    • I think so. Also, if we picked out just one of the Hiroshima victims that would be too painful to comprehend. Elle’s story at least has some hope.

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