Quick-Thoughts: Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

Alain Resnais Marathon Part II of III

If that isn’t the hottest couple I’ve ever seen in cinema, then I don’t know what hot is!

After witnessing one of the greatest openings to a film I’ve ever seen, which was very reminiscent of the poetic documentation style of Alain Resnais’ previous piece Night and Fog, we’re finally shown the faces of the lover characters (one Japanese, one French) narrating their collateral story to that of Japan’s 1945 disaster. The people of Hiroshima always seem to feel as if they’re living in the moment of America’s atomic bombing on them, despite some not even being born during the time period. This is evidently due to the genocide’s cultural impact on the contained society, one which fourteen years later still desires justice and further repercussions that’ll promise a catastrophe such as it will never occur again.

Parallel to this in the idea that the before and after is what makes up the present is “love”. This too always feels as if it is living in the moment of its origins and the moment of its successors; the film correlates the existence of lovers as a singular soul that enters and exits the many bodies of our partners we encounter. And, believe it or not, there is some truth to this: once we’ve lost a lover, don’t we always seem to want to recapture the trance of it with a new one despite the pain its recollection brings us? Isn’t our inclination for more only a habit to replay the events of a happy memory forever onward, fantasizing for this to occur sooner or later? Doesn’t this spiritually make our future partners, those we can say we truly fall head over heels for like we did with the few special one’s before, that of the same past lover due to this intrinsic mindset? According to Hiroshima Mon Amour, the present can essentially be defined as “living in the past and the future, simultaneously”, or at least that’s how I interpreted it.

While this may be truth, I don’t assume that Resnais meant for this to appear as a positive. The pursuit of seeking past love is a curse in plenty cases, one that jeopardizes the future state of other relationships to come. There’s clearly a blurred line to whether “true love” can be replicated or found elsewhere, and the fact that you had experienced true love beforehand makes you timid to think it can come again. That’s why Resnais here has attempted to make the interaction between these two new lovers, feature one that’s forced to transpire in the past, because they’re obsessed with ensuring that it can seep perfectly into her future, and if it can‘t, then she must assume this true love can’t occur in her new partner. This sees our natural inclination to live in the past and future as a horror: it is the defining finger that chooses what happens in our present, whether it’s for the better or the worse; we seem to have little control over the matter. The past deducts far too much time from our future, so it seems. 

Aside from these innovative themes, it doesn’t help make Hiroshima Mon Amour seem any less sensational when I consider that it’s also the best-looking film of the 50s I’ve seen thus far. Yeah, Alain Resnais is starting to make some of the other praised French New Wave directors look puny so far, and I’m only two movies into his filmography!

Oh, and about my previous statement on Before Sunrise and Certified Copy being holy original… umm… yeah…

Verdict: A+

My All-Time Favorites, The French New Wave Ranked

“Hiroshima Mon Amour” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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