Director: Alain Resnais | Runtime: 1h 30mins | Drama, Romance | Language: French, Japanese
A French Actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese Architect (Eiji Okada) spend the night together in Hiroshima. Once the two spend more time together, they realise that they may never see each other again.
Under the watchful gaze of Resnais’ French New Wave style, Hiroshima Mon Amour is a thoughtful romance set in Japan about forgetfulness and moving on in the peak of post-World War II. Using the vibrancy of it’s Hiroshima setting and the poetic words of it’s main characters connection to parallel two stories, both sharing loss and horror in the face of war but scared to let go of the past.
Resnais opens his film with such vivid imagery, blending his own footage with eventual archive footage of Hiroshima in the aftermath of it’s atomic bombing. It’s a drastic reminder for people in the dark about the subject, one that’s a truly horrifying way to open your film but certainly an effective one. It acts as an important pillar of the films own image, continuously capturing the hollow city but also it’s recovered vibrancy.
Once you’ve been well tuned into the film’s intentions we are introduced to the characters, French actress Elle (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese Architect (Eiji Okada), who spend the night together despite both being married. But the story isn’t about infidelity, but rather the fear that their wonderful night together with be nothing more than a foggy memory.
Resnais leads us down a path of thought and reflection, using black and white cinematography to bring the intimate story to a higher purpose.
The two end up spending more time together, but as we spend more time with Elle we learn about her hometown in France, where she fell for a German soldier and in turn was degraded and shamed by her village (a story that’s told beautifully with a moonlit backdrop). As her story becomes clearer the film turns into a fever-dream of poetic narration, meshing her story and the setting with an entire nations fear of forgetting.
As the pair wander the streets of Hiroshima, somehow both desolate and alive, the idea of the two together becomes increasingly unlikely to the point where their presence itself seems almost imagined. But that’s okay, Resnais leads us down a path of thought and reflection, using black and white cinematography to bring the intimate story to a higher purpose. Even in the voiceless scenes, there is a story being told beautifully with both the camera and the characters.
It’s rare to see two parts of the world harmonising so wonderfully in a film, using thoughful dialogue and stunning imagery to amplify both the romance and the bigger picture. Even if you don’t follow each scene down to a tee, you’ll be moved continuously nonetheless.