A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
A French woman and a Japanese man have an affair while she is in Japan making a film about peace and the impact of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, The man, an architect, lost his family in the bombing. She recalls her lover during the war, a 23 year-old German soldier who later died. Despite the time they spend together, her attachment appears minimal and they go forward into the future.Written by
The scene in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum early in the film includes several scenes from the 1953 Japanese film Hiroshima (1953), which starred Japanese actor Eiji Okada, who also plays the leading role in this movie. For obvious reasons, no footage that featured Okada from the earlier Japanese production was included. See more »
When Elle leaves the hotel to go the set, she is wearing a nurse's uniform with a headscarf and carrying a black handbag. When Lui meets her on the set, she is now wearing a skirt and blouse and still has the headscarf. When they leave the set, the headscarf is left behind. When they get to Lui's house, she now has a white jacket. See more »
Listen to me. I know this, too. It will happen again. 200,000 dead, 80,000 wounded in nine seconds. Those are official figures. It will happen again. It will be 10,000 degrees on the earth. "Ten thousand suns," they will say. The asphalt will burn. A deep chaos will prevail. A whole city will be raised and once more crumble into ashes.
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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 it—internal 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 memory—just 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, Resnais—and his friend Chris Marker—already 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 film—about 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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