Celebrating five years of Roffa Mon Amour couldn’t pass without showing Alain Resnais’ first feature film Hiroshima Mon Amour.
The film tells the story of a French woman and a Japanese man who, both happily married, have a one-night romance in Hiroshima. She, their names are never revealed, has come to Japan to star in a film about peace. He is an architect whose wife is out of town. They meet the day before her return to France. Locked up in a hotel room, they make love and talk about Hiroshima.
It is a banal story that happens everywhere in the world, a thousand times a day. But in this city it is the one place where it’s hardest to imagine. It is Hiroshima, 1957, barely twelve years after the bombing.
As the film opens we see two naked bodies, the bodies of him and her. Untouched, gleaming, sensual, entwined. Him and her in a bed. They talk about Hiroshima. She talks; he listens or contradicts her.
HE: You saw nothing in Hiroshima.
SHE: I saw everything. Everything. The hospital for instance, I saw it. I’m sure I did. There is a hospital in Hiroshima. How could I help seeing it?
HE: You did not see the hospital in Hiroshima. You saw nothing in Hiroshima
The hotel room makes place for the hospital. We see different bodies. But this time, we see dead bodies, mutilated, coated with ashes and dust. They are a metaphor for time and space. We see the city burning. We see the other Hiroshima.
In Hiroshima, every gesture, word or encounter takes on another meaning, one that transcends its literal meaning. A love story set in Hiroshima is a different love story. Incorporating the horror of the past into a love affair that is this wonderful and special, is more credible than if it had occurred anywhere else in the world. In Hiroshima, love, horror, memories and hope take on a different meaning.
At first, director Alain Resnais wanted to make a short documentary about the 6th of August, 1945. He spent a few months working on the script but got stuck eventually, and realised the story would be better for a feature film. He involved Maguerite Duras at that time already an acclaimed novelist, not to forget, also an enfant terrible, who wrote the scenario in two months while working closely with the director.
The film garnered international acclaim upon its release in 1959. Although it premiered outside of the main competition in Cannes for ‘diplomatic reasons’, presumably not to offend the U.S, it won the International Critics Award and later gained an Oscar nomination for Best Scenario, establishing Resnais international reputation.
Moreover, the film changed the cinematic culture and became a pioneer of the French New Wave. With its mixture of reality and fantasy, documentary images and fictional flashbacks, Resnais created a non-linear fragmented storyline, formerly only known in literature, making the film a true love-child of a filmmaker and a novelist.
In Hiroshima Mon Amour, dialogues and images are equally important. And, just like in novels: Its characters stay with you forever. It is the kind of film you can watch over and over again because you always discover new layers, new lines, new images, and new definitions. Every time you watch, you will end up with that same ambivalent feeling. Hoping they will never meet again, yet hoping they please will.
Article by Charlotte van Zanten