[Film Review] Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

Hiroshima mon amour poster

Title: Hiroshima mon amour
Year: 1959
Country: France, Japan
Language: French, Japanese, English
Genre: Drama Romance
Director: Alain Resnais
Writer: Marguerite Duras
Music:
Georges Delerue
Giovanni Fusco
Cinematography:
Michio Takahashi
Sacha Vierny
Cast:
Emmanuelle Riva
Eiji Okada
Stella Dassas
Pierre Barbaud
Bernard Fresson
Rating: 8.1/10

A first-time encounter with Resnais’ accepted Rive Gauche masterpiece, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, a doleful exploration of the post-holocaust psyche between a French woman (Riva) and a Japanese man (Okada) in Hiroshima, she comes to this alien land to shoot a pacifist film, and he is a local architect.

After the tantalising opening sequences where two naked bodies amorously twisting, caressing under a rain of dust or maybe some ash – is it referring the radiation after the nuclear bomb attack? Hard to tell, Resnais, starts the film with his documentarist narration of the unnamed French woman, aka, she, wanders in the hospital, the war museum as a distant outsider in his superlative dollying shots, observes the damage a decade later, with physical abnormality and disfigurement on the surface, but what about the inside?

She and he, mutually attracted to each other for a dalliance, but soon her troubled memories are induced by the burgeoning romance, at the same year of the nuke tragedy, in a small French town Nevers, her love affair with a German soldier (Fresson) comes to a halt after his death, she became the shame of her family and the talk of the town, locked in the cellar, her mind was on the verge of a breakdown. Now, years later, in Hiroshima, she indulges in a passionate rendezvous with him, a suave Japanese man, who evokes her deceased lover and she must undergo a distressing process of uncovering old scars in front of him, frankly and unconditionally. Moreover, within one day, she is leaving Hiroshima forever, is there a possibility that she can stay here with him, even just for a few more days? She has one night to decide.

Marguerite Duras wrote the screenplay specifically for this film, which granted her an Oscar nomination, the westerner-meets-oriental milieu is in her familiar soil, e.g. her autobiographical taboo relationship in THE LOVER (1992), but here, her formulaically repeated, essayistic monologue and dialogue, coalesce seamlessly with the magic editing, which jumps back-and-forth between present and flashback, sharply project the frisson of a soul tormented by the consequences of the war, a fatalistic blow to any sensible mind, the damage has done, it is irrevocable, and irredeemable.

Emmanuelle Riva, what an impeccable actress on screen, transcends the minimalistic story to express such an emotional, heartrending breaking-down of her character’s ordeal and shares a tender yet wavering chemistry with Eiji Okada, whom one might think lesser due to his mechanical articulation (he couldn’t speak French so everything he says is phonetically recited).

In the end, he is Hiroshima and she becomes Nevers, their individuality vanishes, what they personify are two disparate countries, living under the shadow of the loathsome war, can never take a deep breath since it still hurts underneath.

Oscar 1959 - Hiroshima mon amour

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