Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)




Director:     Alain Resnais.

Starring:     Emmanuelle Riva (Elle), Eiji Okada (Lui), Stella Dassas (mother), Pierre Barbaud (father), Bernard Fresson (German lover).

a budding romance is overshadowed by memories of the horrors of the A-bomb  



I know this is a famous movie, but I found it a little too artsy-fartsy for my tastes. (This is one of those New Wave French films.)  The story was good, but the use of a kind of free-form spoken poetry just was neither my wife's or my taste.  And this is made worse by there only really being two characters in the film. 

This is the story of a French woman, Elle, who falls for a Japanese man (Lui), while she is in Hiroshima, Japan filming an anti-war peace movie.  The Japanese man is very much in love with the woman, but the woman has a terribly painful past.  And it is this past that prevents her from giving into her love for the man. 

Elle, as a young girl, fell in love with a German man during the period of the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.  This was considered a betrayal by the French people and as the Germans are being pushed out of her little town, her lover is shot dead by an unknown Frenchman.  Then Elle has most of her hair cut off and she is roughed up a bit by those who feel she is a traitor (which was the standard treatment of French women who had relations with Germans).  Her parents hide her in the cellar where her deep grieving over her loss is made worse by the damp, cold and closeness of her hiding place.  Elle is a very depressed and traumatized young woman. 

When her hair grows long enough, her parents send her off to Paris where she can start a new live, unknown by her neighbors.  (She remembers that when she got to Paris the newspapers were filled with stories about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.) 

She says that she gets married and has children.  But even after 14 years have passed since the loss of her German lover, she remains very depressed (clinically depressed).  She is not happy in her marriage which further depresses her. 

When she travels to Hiroshima, she falls in love with Lui.  But she does not feel as though she can stay with the man.  There are several reasons for this, the two most important being her past trauma and her current depression, which seems to have paralyzed her.

While she is filming in Hiroshima, she visits the museum dealing with the atomic bombing of the city four times.  She is fascinated by the horror of the event.  And the opening love scene between Elle and Lui is constantly interspersed with just terribly disturbing images of bomb victims, including vivid pictures of the results of radioactive poisoning. 

It is interesting that each person in the couple have horror stories coming out of their experiences with war, one in France and the other in Japan. 

The main question the movie viewer has is will Elle give into her love for the Lui or will she continue on in her current course of depression.   


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.





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