Alain Resnais Norman N. Holland - Essay

Norman N. Holland

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A brilliant, trying picture, at once sensitive and blunt, tender and savage, fleshy and spiritual, pacifist and politically realistic, [Hiroshima, Mon Amour] has something for everybody. For the film historian, not only does it provide another item to flesh out that increasingly meaningless label, nouvelle vague; it also uses some important new techniques of flashback. For the film critic, it is just a fine and meaningful film, to borrow a Bergman title, a lesson in love.

Hiroshima shows us a Frenchwoman and a Japanese having an impromptu affair in that city, which she tells us "was made for love." As they embrace, she drily and monotonously reconstructs from her tours of the city the world-wide horror of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and thereafter; later, she recalls as though on an analytic couch her personal horror—the French killing her German lover in the brisk process of liberation and her subsequent shames and sufferings….

[The] complexity of Resnais' technique rules out the possibility he is dealing with anything so banal as a study in nationalities. (p. 593)

In joining the old love affair, the new one, and the bombing, Resnais insists on the essential sameness of human experience, specifically the bombing and the "liberation," love and war. Shots of her shorn head match shots of Japanese women pulling out their radiated hair after the bomb. They crawl out of ruins and cellars as she had done with her German lover. The lighting of her basement prison is the soot of Hiroshima. "Deform me, deform me," she cries to her new lover, "You destroy me—you are good for me." This sameness is implicit in the very technique of telling about the bombing and the German lover in the setting of the later love affair which fuses both episodes, Resnais' technique of unexplained flashbacks....

(The entire section is 766 words.)