The film starts.
Two bodies embracing; covered in sand; covered in glitter. They are indistinguishable from one another. A man’s voice: “You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing.”
A woman’s hand grips the man’s body tightly. She denies. “I saw everything.” She says.
She goes on to speak; the cruelties, man’s atrocities, the effects of the bombing, the people, the remnants. She speaks in poetry. “I’ve always wept over Hiroshima’s fate. Always.”
The man denies her bluntly. “No. What was there for you to weep over?”
Who speaks the truth here?
The woman speaks only of what she has heard. She never truly been to Hiroshima, she was not at there during the bombing. From the beginning she speaks only from an outsider’s point of view.
“Like you I know what it is to forget.” She says.
“No, you don’t know what it is to forget.” The man says.
There was nothing for her to forget after all.
The two are lovers, the woman is french and she is in Hiroshima to shoot a film, the man is an architect who lives in the city. We soon learn that neither the man nor the woman were actually at Hiroshima during the bombing. Throughout the film, the two lovers are plagued with imagery of Hiroshima. The woman acts in a film about peace, we see cameras and equipment, curious on – lookers, crew members prepping props for the film: Signs which state against the use of nuclear weaponry, miniature buildings and make – up to recreate the devastating effects of the nuclear bomb on humans.
All are false.
Images of the mutation of the nuclear bomb are shown but they are just images. When the two reunite at the set of the film, such images surround them and overlap their own presence on screen.
This film by Alain Resnais is not only about the tragedy of Hiroshima itself but it is also about memory and forgetfulness, the two key aspects of human history. The woman talks of her time in Nevers, a small town in France where she is shamed and punished for her romantic relations with an enemy soldier. The film cuts back and forth between the present and flashbacks of her past. This for the woman has occurred a long time ago and now she tells the tale to her lover to remember her lover in Nevers. Yet by doing so she feels that just by telling the story to remember her lover, she is already forgetting him.
The film is like a paradox, often exploring ideas that contradict one another. The film is a hypothesis, posing questions and questions but never answers, as one can see with the cryptic ending of the film. Although in paper, a film that explores the woman’s romantic relations of the past and the tragedy of Hiroshima would sound like a contradiction and probably wouldn’t work all too well together, as the two subjects appear to have little to do with one another.
The film proves me wrong.
Rather than focusing on the romantic aspects, Hiroshima Mon Amour looks at the distant memory. How her love for the man has become distant memory, just like the incident of Hiroshima itself. They say time heals all wounds and that is both a curse and a blessing for there are some wounds worth keeping and remembering, yet they are harmful and should be healed.
The incident of Hiroshima is definitely devastating, but comparing the reality of the incident before to what is presented in the present, this large wound now seems like just a scar.
Perhaps I am not best to describe and compare the Hiroshima bombing for I too, was not there at Hiroshima and all I know of it are the remnants of the memories.
The film a masterpiece and is one of the best films I have ever seen. Yet, I have some qualms fully recommending the film to others, especially to the mainstream crowd. While I know that many cinephiles will definitely enjoy such a film, those who watch films for more… superficial reasons may dismiss the film as a pretentious headache.