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Hiroshima Mon Amour (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Hiroshima Mon Amour


Starring Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada, Bernard Fresson, Stella Dassas and Pierre Barbaud.

Screenplay by Marguerite Duras.

Directed by Alain Resnais.

Distributed by Rialto Pictures.  92 minutes.  Not Rated.

Gallic movies of the fifties and sixties – dubbed La Nouvelle Vague (the French New Wave) – caused seismic changes in cinematic art.  Unique visual imaginations like François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Claude Lelouch and Alain Resnais changed the way films were presented, a brilliant and arresting blur of stark realism and surrealistic whimsy.

This film was the first feature for Resnais, the start of a career that continued up until the director’s death in March.  Despite the fact that it was considered something of a classic upon release, due to legal wrangling Hiroshima Mon Amour has been out of sight for years.

Now in honor of its 55th anniversary it is being returned to art houses in a newly restored print.  It is a stunning artistic achievement, the crisp black and white photography and adventurous mix of bold angles and real world giving the film a gorgeous timelessness.

Hiroshima Mon Amour began life as a documentary about the dropping of the Atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan during World War II, but eventually became something much more delicate and complicated.  It was a seamless merge of real life and fiction, the story of two strangers drawn amongst the ghosts of tragedy.

The storyline itself is very basic.  A French actress (Emmanuel Riva) is visiting Hiroshima to film a movie “about peace.”  She meets a married Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) in a bar and they have an one-night-stand.  These characters names are never given, they are simply referred to as “him” and “her” in the credits.

They spend most of the next day before she leaves exploring the rebuilt city, seeing parades, visiting restaurants and slowly opening up about their personal lives – his wife and her long ago affair with a German soldier.

All the while they experience the devastation and rebirth surrounding them.  Keep in mind, Hiroshima Mon Amour was filmed a mere fifteen years after the atomic bomb blast, when it was still fresh in memory and the scars of the places and people were still somewhat raw.

The acting was wonderfully realistic and yet a tiny bit self-consciously mannered – they tended to laugh and cry and react just a bit too animatedly.  This was an artistic choice, though, to give the film a heightened sense, but the acting was terrific.  In fact, “Her” was played legendary French actress Emmanuelle Riva, who works to this day.  In fact, she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar just last year for her heartbreaking role of a dying elderly woman in Michael Haneke’s Amour.

Hiroshima Mon Amour is one of that most elusive beasts in film – a groundbreaking, pioneering vision that is evocative of an era and at yet is oddly timeless.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: November 14, 2014.

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