Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flashbacks in Alain Resnais's "Hiroshima Mon Amour" (1959) Essay idea

Hiroshima mon amour is an acclaimed 1959 drama film directed by French film director Alain Resnais, with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras. The title literally translates from French to English as 'Hiroshima, My Love', though the film is almost always referred to by its original French title. It is the documentation of an intensely personal conversation between a French-Japanese couple about memory and forgetfulness. It was a major catalyst for the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave), making highly innovative use of miniature flashbacks to create a uniquely nonlinear storyline.

One of the first flashbacks in the movie shows up after powerful beginning when the main character (French actress) takes a Japanese lover who reminds her of her first love, a German soldier who was killed in Nevers during the World War II. The problem of time and it’s relationship to the present is solved in unusual way- the woman watches her Japanese lover as he sleeps and his arm is twisted. When she sees his hand, Resnais cut back and forth between a close-up of the hand and a midshot of the woman. After moving in closer, he cut from the midshot of the woman to close-up of another hand (a hand from the past), then back to the midshot and then to a full shot of a dead german lover, his hand in exactly the same position as that of the Japanese lover. The full shot shows him bloodied and dead and the film then cuts back to present.

This movie is just filled with symbolic flashbacks and they are not clearly explained, but knowing some historic facts you can find something very interesting. For example: why in some of her past memories she was shaved and kept in a cellar explains the fact that when towns throughout Europe were liberated from Germany in during the war the women who had slept with the occupying Germans had their heads shaved to show the disgrace and shame of sleeping with the enemy. This is also why her fathers shop closed as no one would buy products from the father of a traitor. Unfortunately, this was unconditional commitment to her lover and he helped define her as a person. So upon his death she was experiencing the vulnerability of love. This is also probably why in the scene with the parade there was a man who had burns all across his chest that stood in front of the couple. He was the symbol of the re-opening of that old wound and the vulnerability of having people help define us.

I think this classic movie has a lot to talk about and it is very iconic. I had lots of different movie ideas, but this one looks the strongest.

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