Saturday, March 21, 2009

Hiroshima, Mon Amour

When the dust, the ashes slowly settle, hiding beneath years of anger and felt injustice and mourning, then the greatest tragedy is redemption: to have the scorched frozen layer scraped. Alain Resnais reaches heights of his prowess with as difficult a subject as Hiroshima bombings, which he slowly weaves into a yarn of loss, and from thereon the loss of love. How Resnais achieves the miraculous feat of standing the film on its own legs--the only films I have seen without references are those of Resnais--is through his usual tricks of utilizing the stream-of-consciousness technique. Other directors struggle with montages, a simple cut, and their films become a mockery of a sequence of paintings carried forth to burst upon the viewer (none better example than Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain of the complete miscarriage of cinema); Resnais reaches the soul of his characters. Once again, voices play a key character role in the film, this time even more than La Guerre Est Finie. The voice is the unconscious, the seemingly unrelated scenes strung up in a sequence are the past, the unseen or the afraid-of present, the future, the actors and their bodies are puppets dancing to the plot's tune. That’s the whole beauty of Resnais: maybe only Kieślowski comes close to realize it.

The film's central theme is memory. Memory of a loved one. Whom you cannot forget, and who can never be redeemed. You bury him after years of effort, one-night stands, and denials; one day you meet real love, who undoes all that and rips open your heart with the pain you felt. The memory is blurred: there is no distinction between the lover fifteen years ago, and the lover now. Life continues, death continues. The two worlds of the small French town of Nevers on the banks of Loire where to love a German was the most shameful of crimes you could have committed in the 1940s, and the bombed city of Hiroshima whose denizens became not only a symbol of the horrors of war and of the need for peace but also that of liberation for Europe, the end of the War; those two worlds meet. And a love is born which knows at birth itself that it will last for ever, yet that it will never be together; that the one or two days they have are the only ones they will ever see each other. Emmanuelle Riva does an excellent job in her debut performance, but it is the Japanese actor Eiji Okada who impresses the most in this one of the most, most beautiful films I will ever see in my life. In a certain way, the film is an exact antithesis to Bleu, since older memories prevail, but in a much more strange way Hiroshima, Mon Amour teaches you to situate yourself within the grief and internalize it and face the world: as long as a marble can fall with the boys’ sunlight into a cellar, the world is yet open and embracing.

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