Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Day 81: Hiroshima Mon Amour

I've got to stop watching such great old films. It's really impossible to enter into any dialogue about them that feels fresh, vibrant, or, even honest without the ghosts of critics past haunting my keystrokes. Generally, when I sit down to write about a movie like Hiroshima Mon Amour, I try to dig deep, to find what it means to me, try to ignore everything that's been said about it, and find the aspect of the film that hit me the hardest as an entry point.

For Hiroshima Mon Amour, there's no doubt that the documentary footage of survivors of the atomic blast is this entry point. The film juxtaposes the smooth bodies of two entwined lovers with the burnt, crispy flesh of the survivors while the lovers whisper enigmatic things to one another about Hiroshima. The couple is comprised of a French actress, in Hiroshima to make a film about peace, and a Japanese architect. They've only just met and both are married, but they connect so quickly, so easily that the affair threatens to overtake their lives. As the film progresses, they constantly break apart and then come back together, compelled, perhaps, by the desire to understand the enormity of the violence that took place in Hiroshima and how it affected both of them.

We learn that the Japanese man was off fighting in the war when the bomb dropped, but his family was living in Hiroshima. We learn that the French woman had an affair with a Nazi when she was 18 and was publicly shamed for this fact. Both lovers cling to one another in order to exorcise their painful memories, but their desire to hold on to the pain of the past separates them, isolates them, and dooms their relationship. The Japanese man is the more ready to let the past drift away of the two, but the film never resolves his disturbance that the French people celebrated when the bomb was dropped. The actress cannot let go of the memory of the dead Nazi, telling herself that she's cheated on him by revealing their story to another.

The pall and guilt of war crimes pervades a well-captured and realistic romance. The relationship is a sweaty, passionate, yet shameful affair, and this is never more apparent than when the two make one another happy. Their smiles are tinged with regret and their laughter short and terse. The characters often refer to past events in the present tense and this conflates the past and the present of the film. This is particularly saddening, as it gives the sweet relationship an air of inevitable doom.

The film is beautiful in the way it takes world events and makes them personally relevant to realistically drawn characters. This is something that I never fail to go nuts about. With beautiful black and white photography and a delightful musical score, Hiroshima Mon Amour is a poignant history of the emotions of people post World War II and, yet, much like the way the characters speak of the past in the present tense, it exists above time.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

A very well written review. I can't disagree with anything because it's one of my all-time favorites!

Also, I'd like to add that I think the score is fantastic. It's upbeat at times, depressing, contemplative,etc. The scene where the museum is first shown gives me chills. The music which accompanies it is just perfect.

Great film.