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1959. A French young woman has spent the night with a Japanese man, at Hiroshima where she went for the shooting of a film about peace. He reminds her of the first man she loved. It was during World War II, and he was a German soldier. The main themes of this film are memory and oblivion. Written by
Eiji Okada (playing Lui) did not know any French and was coached in pronouncing each syllable and memorized that order. See more »
After they leave the teahouse, a shot from the side shows Lui standing behind Elle to her left with a gap of about a foot and a half. The next frontal shot shows him standing directly behind her with only a small gap between them. See more »
All these years I've been looking for an impossible love.
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Memory has persistently troubled filmmakers, this facet of consciousness by which the past overwrites the present. Where do these images come from, at what behest? More importantly, by invoking memory, how can we hope to communicate to others this past experience, which only perhaps existed once?
The woman says she saw Hiroshima, the charred asphalt and scorched metal, the matted hair coming out in tufts. We may have seen the same anonymous images of disaster, elsewhere, and think we saw. We see other people like her, like ourselves as mere spectators of a film, walk around the a-bomb museum in Hiroshima among the relics of disaster, lost in thought, impotent to reconstruct the experience from these glassed remnants of it. One of the great metaphors of memory, this museum that houses and presents fragmentary what used to be and how the spectators merely move inside itinternal observers of images.
The woman says she saw Hiroshima, but we know she didn't really experience. We know by the same images we may have seen, and which we see again in the film. We know this from our own private efforts to relive time gone. We see the objects and sounds but not having walked among them, we only know them vicariously. Can we ever get to know through cinema for that matter?
The great contribution of Resnais to cinema is firstly this, the realization that this medium is inherently equipped to inherit the problem of memoryjust what is this illusory space. Inherently equipped in the same breath to fail to recapture the world as it was, like memory. Where Godard would be in thirty years, Resnaisand his friend Chris Markeralready was with his debut. He gives us here a more poignant, intelligent disclaimer of the artificiality of cinema than Godard ever did. The woman is of course an actress starring in a filmabout peace we find out.
But Hiroshima is not the simple ploy of a trickster, it enters beyond.
We see in Hiroshima how the past forms that make up life as we have known it, and in which the self was forged, come into play. How these things, a past love or suffering thought to matter at the time, are only small by the distance of time. That we weren't shattered by them.
And we see how, having been, these forms will vanish again. How this present love and perhaps the suffering that will follow it, thought to matter now, will also come to pass and be forgotten. How we will perhaps try to recount these events at a future time, our reconstructions faced with the same impotence to make ourselves known or know in turn.
All that remains then, having walked the city in an effort to shape again from memory, is this moment, perhaps shared by two people on a bed. These walks taken together. Perhaps a story to tell or a film about it.
Something to meditate upon.
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