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HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR (director/writer: Alain Resnais; screenwriter: Marguerite Duras; cinematographers: Takahashi Michio/Sacha Vierny; editors: Jasmine Chasney/Henri Colpi/Anne Sarraute; music: Georges Delerue/Giovanni Fusco; cast: Emmanuelle Riva (She), Eiji Okada (He), Eiji Okada (German Lover), Stella Dassas (Mother), Pierre Barbaud (Father); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Anatole Dauman/Samy Halfon; Criterion Collection; 1959-France-in French with English subtitles)
“It’s one of the landmark French New Wave films that featured innovative flashback techniques that altered the narratives chronological order and used silence to indicate the past.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the groundbreaking arty feature film debut of Alain Resnais (“Last Year at Marienbad”/”Je t’aime, Je t’aime”/”Muriel”); it’s one of the landmark French New Wave films that featured innovative flashback techniques that altered the narratives chronological order and used silence to indicate the past. It’s based on the daring screenplay by novelist Marguerite Duras, key writer in the Nouveau Roman movement. It’s a literate peace/love film (combining the historical importance of Hiroshima as the tragic place where there was the mushroom cloud with an intimate personal adulterous love story about the tragedy of a woman who could never return home again because of her war experiences). It shows how a Japanese man’s life was changed forever when he experienced the bomb firsthand as a young man of 22 while living in Hiroshima, and the devastating effects the war had on an 18-year-old Frenchwoman who was called out after the liberation as a collaborator for being with a German soldier and in prison had her head shaved.

In Hiroshima, 14 years after the atomic bomb was dropped, to make an international peace film where she plays a nurse, married French actress (Emmanuelle Riva, her first credited role) has a fling with a married Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). In her hotel room, in the aptly named New Hiroshima, the nameless lovers make love, embrace, explore how the war altered their lives and what Hiroshima means to them. She leaves to finish filming and he can’t get her out of his mind, so he visits her on the set. That in a few hours she’s set to return to Paris and he has failed to convince her to stay on longer upsets him greatly, as he knows it’s likely that he will never see her again and she has greatly touched him. While having their last drink together she tells him of her humiliating unforgettable experience in occupied France, in her hometown of Nevers, a place she has never returned to after the war, where after the liberation and the death of her German soldier boyfriend by partisans she was marched through the streets of Nevers and disowned by her disgraced pharmacist father. She tells of the German being her first love, and how miserable everything became for her at the war’s end when she found herself isolated. Her melancholy connects with the architect’s wartime experience, where 200,000 died and eighty thousand were wounded in just a few seconds from the bomb that virtually ended the war.

Resnais’s highly stylized and personal film serves as a bridge to the past so some understanding of it can be reached, while because of its commercial success and its critical acclaim it also paved the way for modern filmmakers to make innovative non-linear films instead of the usual linear ones.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”