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Hiroshima Mon Amour

Hiroshima Mon Amour

By Patrick Samuel • March 4th, 2014
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Pathé Films

Original release: June 10th, 1959
Running time: 91 minutes

Country of origin: France, Japan
Original language: French with English subtitles

Director: Alain Resnais
Writer: Marguerite Duras

Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada
Hiroshima Mon Amour

Alain Resnais had more in common with the Left Bank group of filmmakers than his French New Wave counterparts Godard and Truffaut. His films adopted a different style of narrative and visually there was something haunting, troubled and fragmented in them as they sought to tell us how the mind processes the events around us.

While his later films like L’Année dernière à Marienbad (1961) and Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968) took the idea of consciousness as a running theme, those seeds were first sown in his earlier work like Hiroshima Mon Amour, a film which dared to put into words something impossible to describe.

It can be viewed in two ways. One the one hand we have an extramarital affair between Elle (Emmanuelle Riva), a French actress making a film about Hiroshima, and Lui (Eiji Okada), a Japanese architect. It’s narrated by Elle as she talks about her life, her relationship with a German soldier and her observations of things, places, events and people around her.

Lui rejects, denies and questions her, but at the same time he urges and pursues her. Their time is coming to an end and soon they will return to their normal lives and all of this will be forgotten.

On the other hand, the film presents us with the effects of the “Little Boy” nuclear bomb which was dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 – killing somewhere between 90,000 and 166,000 people. In this way it’s a poetic documentary as it tries to describe the indescribable, but language has no words for what we are shown.

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Those who didn’t die immediately from flash burns or falling debris suffered in the following months from the long-term effects. The confusion, helplessness and struggles of a city and its people try to come to terms with what’s happened is captured in such a profound way that it’s had to forget the images and feelings which accompany it.

Elle says to Lui that she’s seen it first hand and he refutes her claim. He knows that she couldn’t have. While he was stationed elsewhere with the army his own family were victims in Hiroshima on that day. The moments and memories that Elle clings to, whether real or imagined, when contrasted with Hiroshima, are so trivial and banal…

We know their time together is fleeting and we know we should take Elle’s words with a pinch of salt but what I felt Hiroshima Mon Amour was really asking me to do was not to forget what happened in Hiroshima or trivialise it as something we just read about or mention casually in conversation with others.

From its opening scenes with its lovers entwined in a passionate embrace as radioactive ash falls on their naked bodies through to its reflective finale, Hiroshima Mon Amour remains thought provoking and relevant today as it was in 1959 when Eric Rohmer said of it “I think that in a few years, in ten, twenty, or thirty years, we will know whether Hiroshima Mon Amour was the most important film since the war, the first modern film of sound cinema.”

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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