A French actress filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima has an affair with a married Japanese architect as they share their differing perspectives on war.A French actress filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima has an affair with a married Japanese architect as they share their differing perspectives on war.A French actress filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima has an affair with a married Japanese architect as they share their differing perspectives on war.
Any film which begins with abstracted images of the entwined body parts of human lovers, slowly becoming encrusted with ash and (presumably) atomic fallout... and then spends an obscure 15 minutes arguing about the death and disfigurement of multitudes during the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima, and the nature of memory and forgetfulness... well, you realize immediately that this movie isn't set up to go anyplace fun. Unless your idea of "fun" is witnessing someone else's graphic misery without the cleansing catharsis that accompanies a more conventional tragedy. Hey, some people enjoy that kind of thing! Not me, but to each his/her own.
Despite a structure which is famous for meandering through time, the film's narrative is fairly cogent and non-confusing, which is a plus. But the central illicit, inter-racial affair between a French actress and the Japanese architect whom she hooks up with during a film shoot in Hiroshima... It doesn't really make any sense. From the tiny acorn of a chance hookup, grows a mad-passionate love affair based almost entirely on memories dredged from the actress' past, which she disgorges to the architect, rather like a colorless Scheherezade, as she loses all rational connection to the present, conflating a youthful indiscretion with a deceased German soldier (and her subsequent descent into madness) with the non-happenings surrounding her current Japanese amour. German, Japanese... clearly, she can't tell these Axis races apart! I understand that the point of the film was not to create strict narrative coherence, but rather to delve into some kind of symbolic and psychic clash between this cold-yet-overwrought union of a French woman and her obsessed Japanese lover, and the horrors of War. But, despite some moments which are outright absurdist in effect, the overall tone of the film is grinding in its humorlessness. As I watched the characters fatalistically surrendering to their doom, all I could think was, "man, that Marguerite Duras must have been a drag to be romantically involved with." I mean, the Duras script, for all it's poetic symbolism and intellectual brilliance, etc etc, tells a story of people who are criminally passive and hopelessly clingy. Love seems to transform her characters into mere victims, of love, of war, of life, masochistically reveling in their own operatic suffering while doing virtually nothing. As the nameless SHE recalls her own suffering during her madness, scraping her fingertips off on the saltpeter-encrusted walls of her parent's cellar-prison, then receiving validation of existence by luxuriously sucking her own blood from her ravaged hands because otherwise she is utterly alone, all I could think was... Oh brother! This character is so badly damaged, how did she ever manage to get happily married before she embarked on this chance affair in Japan? The imagery is fabulous and intense, but are these really human beings that could have plausibly embarked on a journey together? One human being, actually, because the Japanese architect is little more than a handsome cipher of "love"... love, in this story, apparently meaning the obsession that arises from the act of physical copulation, an experience which is equated with destruction of the nuclear holocaust variety. So, Marguerite Duras clearly had issues surrounding her expression and experience of sexuality. And the film betrays little in the way of empathy, either, the characters are infused with an undercurrent of intense selfishness as they struggle to connect. HE is constantly delving into HER unhappy past even though it can give neither of them any pleasure or joy. The more HE delves, the more SHE becomes hopelessly entangled, and the more obsessed HE becomes... until the cold and bitter end.
At least in an opera, you get to revel in an outpouring of passion! In this bitter pill, everything is so cold and humorless... well, it really is difficult to understand why people wax enthusiastic over this film so much. There is much here to ADMIRE... but not much to love, in my opinion. Except intellectually, because the film is awash with symbolism and thought-provoking moments. As a viewing experience for the average intellectual, such as myself, however, I felt that once was enough. The time jumping and abstractions and other critically lauded elements of this movie have been done better and more entertainingly by others. Though this is the most emotionally powerful anti-nuclear statement I've ever seen, for which, as someone who had much of his family die in the Hiroshima nuclear blast, I am profoundly grateful.
- Jan 11, 2016