On a film set in postwar Hiroshima, a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) meets a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). For two days, they walk around the city, make love, and talk. Although both have personal war experiences, they gradually open up to each other through entangled conversations about time and memory. What was originally conceived as a documentary about the atomic bomb turned into French classic Alain René's feature-length debut—an outstanding meditation on love and one of twentieth-century cinema's top achievements. The film will be screened on 35mm film.
Like Shoah, documentary filmmaker Claude Lanzmann's monumental epic about the Holocaust, René wonders whether it is legitimate to represent a historical catastrophe on the screen, and comes to the conclusion that talking about Hiroshima itself is impossible—but can we talk about the very impossibility of talking about it?. The narrator's text recounting memories of both main characters, named simply He and She, circles around the bush, always leaving a gap into which the actress and the architect, traumatized by the war, are afraid to look. And even though Her story is based on real events, these abstract characters are perceived as schematic generalizations, portraits of cities, rather than concrete people, where He represents Hiroshima, and She—the French city of Nevers.
Cinematographer Sacha Vierny, who later worked closely with Peter Greenaway, developed a textured black and white solution for the film and managed to capture an unforgettable image of Hiroshima in bloom after the war. The Oscar-nominated screenplay by Marguerite Duras draws viewers into a fragmented consciousness with flashbacks. Male and female voices, past and present, fiction and newsreel, are layered on top of each other in Hiroshima, mon amour. The film premiered at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, the same year as another breakthrough picture, François Truffaut's The 400 Blows. It revolutionized the language of cinema and drew attention to the then-emerging French new wave.
Hiroshima, mon amour
Dir. Alain René
France, Japan, 1959. 90 min. 16+