Alain Resnais' and Marguerite Duras' "Hiroshima Mon Amour"


‘I remember Hiroshima’
‘You remember nothing’

“You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing.”

” I saw everything. Everything.”

It has been quite a while that I wanted to write about Alain Resnais’ movie “Hiroshima Mon Amour”.

Alain Resnais

I get to do it today, 66 years after the bomb drop that marked the history of the world.

On the surface, it is a love affair with the city of Hiroshima and her people providing the background.

A French actress doing a film in Hiroshima meets a Japanese architect and they have sex. As time goes by, “He” asks “Her” to stay in Hiroshima forever. There are elements of “falling in love” “She” denies. In the process, “She” brings forward a painful memory that has marked her life. Her love affair with a German soldier during the war. He was killed the day before the liberation of France, and she has been marked by this relationship, both literally and metaphorically.

She appears to be mourning forever. Is she able to love?

How can she love when she does not admit that she is full of memories of her first love?

She has never told anyone about the German soldier, only the Japanese man.

The traditional reading of the film ascerts that the woman had forgotten and/or repressed the memory of her German lover until she met the Japanese man, who made her remember him. I beg to differ. In my view the woman is full of memories of her German lover, and until she met the Japanese man in Hiroshima she was not admitting it. Repressing a memory does not equate forgetting.

The sense of breakthrough that comes in Hiroshima is that the woman is able to reminisce and talk about the German, and all the horror that followed his death.The issue has never been forgetting. The issue was the continuous mourning and draining of psychological energy, was the open gaping wound in her existence, that made her until Hiroshima unble to admit and talk about what had happened to her.

Only by talking about it she has been able to start playing with the idea of loving again, which is metaphorically the same as staying in Hiroshima and not going back home to her husband.

But this is not an easy game. The inner conflict is strong. She wants to stay, she wants to love, she wants to frame her memory of the German soldier in the reality of her Japanese lover, but she cannot do it.

The time frame of the movie is varied.

In current time, it covers 24 hours.

In past time, it covers more 20 years.

This variance also applies ot the location.

The current location of the movie is Hiroshima, in Japan.

The past location is Nevers in France.

At the end of the movie, the woman gives the man the name “Hi-ro-shi-ma” and the man names the woman “Ne-vers”.

Julia Kristeva has written an essay “The Malady of Grief: Duras”, published in her collection “Black Sun”.

According to Kristeva, Duras’ story is about the meeting of two disasters:

“Nevers here, Hiroshima there. However intense it may be in its unnameable silence, love is henceforth in suspence, pulverized, atomized. To love from her point of view, is to love a dead person.The body of her new lover merges with the corpse of her first love, which she had covered with her own body, a day and a night, and whose blood she savored…. But the very dynamic Japanese engineer is also marked by death because he necessarily bears the moral scars of the atomic death of which his countrymen were the first victims.”

Marguerite Duras

Dumas comments in her scenario for the movie: “All one can do is to speak of the impossibility of speaking of Hiroshima. The knowledge of Hiroshima is something that must be set down, a priori, as being an exemplary delusionof the mind”.