While shooting a film on location in postwar Hiroshima, a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) and a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) engage in a fleeting but passionate affair. In the hours before she has to leave, the two recount their previous romances and experiences during wartime as they ponder the devastation following the atomic bomb dropped on the city.
Sometimes we have to avoid thinking about the problems life presents. Otherwise we’d suffocate.
Hiroshima mon amour is a film about memory, looking back at the ones that would rather be forgotten. Before focusing on the couple at the center of the film, director Alain Resnais begins the movie with real images from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the aftermath, exemplifying the true horrors of war and its effects on the people around it. It’s an event that has a profound effect on the two characters, especially for the Japanese architect, whose family perished in the bombing. And in exchanging wartime experiences, the French actress remembers her own painful memories of an affair she had with a German soldier. Even though they both have moved on from what’s happened to each of them in the past, the events still haunt their consciousness and the potential for a longer-lasting relationship.
By intertwining real footage of Hiroshima with fictional elements in a flashback structure, Alain Resnais makes this postwar drama all the more compelling in its documentary sensibilities, not shying away from the horrors of war. The nonlinear storyline also serves as a perfect way to study the psychosis of the two characters, especially the one portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva, who gives one of her best, illuminating performances. Hiroshima mon amour is a film that I’m still digesting a bit after watching it a couple weeks ago as it brings up interesting ideas about memories and forgetfulness, but it’s one film I won’t soon forget.
Hiroshima mon amour (1959)
Directed by: Alain Resnais
Starring: Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada