Hiroshima Mon Amour concerns the experiences
of a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva), referred to as Elle
(she), who performs the role of a nurse in a film being
shot in post-war Hiroshima. She meets a Japanese architect
(Eiji Okada), referred to as Lui (him) and, separated from
their spouses, they become lovers. The early part of the
film recounts, in the style of a documentary, but narrated
by the so far completely unidentified characters, the effects
of the Hiroshima bomb on August 6, 1945, in particular the
loss of hair and the complete anonymity of the remains of
some victims. The man had been conscripted into the Japanese
army, and his family were in Hiroshima on that day.
Using flashbacks intercut into the love
story set in 1959 the couple's meetings in hotel
rooms and restaurants the woman relates for the first
time her experiences during World War II in Nevers, where
she was involved with a young German soldier during the
German occupation. She suffered the discrimination of women
who had been friendly with Germans; a severe almost bald
haircut, before leaving for Paris, her hair regrown, and
her anonymity regained. He urges her to stay in Hiroshima,
but the situation is untenable.
It was one of the first French New Wave
films and made innovative use of flashbacks.
Hiroshima Mon Amour has been described
as "The Birth of a Nation of the French New Wave"
by American critic Leonard Maltin. New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc
Godard described the film's inventiveness as "Faulkner
plus Stravinsky" and celebrated its originality, calling
it "the first film without any cinematic references".
Filmmaker Eric Rohmer said, "I think that in a few
years, in ten, twenty, or thirty years, we will know whether
Hiroshima mon amour was the most important film since the
war, the first modern film of sound cinema".
Among the film's innovations is Resnais'
experiments with very brief flashback sequences intercut
into scenes to suggest the idea of a brief flash of memory.
Resnais later used similar effects in Last Year at Marienbad.
According to James Monaco, Resnais was
originally commissioned to make a short documentary about
the atomic bomb, but spent several months confused about
how to proceed because he did not want to recreate his 1955
Holocaust documentary Night and Fog. He later went to his
producer and joked that the film could not be done unless
Marguerite Duras was involved in writing the screenplay.
The film was a co-production by companies
from both Japan and France. The producers stipulated that
one main character must be French and the other be Japanese,
and also required that the film be shot in both countries
employing film crews comprising technicians from each.
In his book on Resnais, James Monaco ends
his chapter on Hiroshima mon Amour by claiming that the
film contains a reference to the classic 1942 film Casablanca:
Here is an 'impossible' love story between two people
struggling with the imagery of a distant war. At the end
of this romantic, poignant movie about leave takings and
responsibilities, the two fateful lovers meet in a cafe.
Resnais gives us a rare establishing shot of the location.
'He' is going to meet 'She' for the last time at a bar called
'The Casablanca' - right here in the middle of Hiroshima!
It's still the same old story. A fight for love and glory.
A case of do or die. The world will always welcome lovers.
As time goes by.
Hiroshima mon Amour earned an Oscar nomination
for screenwriter Marguerite Duras, as well as a special
award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, where the film
was excluded from the official selection because of its
sensitive subject matter as well as to avoid upsetting the
The film has inspired several songs. One
was written by John Foxx and Billy Currie, and initially
recorded and performed by their band Ultravox! in 1977.
One recorded version of the song is a romantic electronic
ballad, notable for showcasing an early use of a drum machine
in popular music. Ultravox! also recorded a different arrangement
of the song, in an aggressive punk style. This version was
covered by the band The Church.
The heavy metal band Alcatrazz also recorded a song titled
"Hiroshima Mon Amour" on their debut album, No
Parole from Rock N' Roll.
In 2003, the New York-based no wave band My Favorite released
"Burning Hearts," which draws upon the main characters
in the film.
Punk rock band The (International) Noise Conspiracy's album
The Cross of My Calling features a song entitled "Hiroshima
In 2002 Bryan Ferry released the album Frantic which includes
the song "Hiroshima", where the chorus includes
the full sentence of "Hiroshima Mon Amour".
In 2001, Japanese film director Nobuhiro
Suwa directed a remake, titled H Story.
In 2003 Iranian film director Bahman Pour-Azar released
Where Or When. The 85-minute film places Pour-Azar's characters
in the same circumstances as Resnais' nearly a half century
earlier. However, the current global tension of today's
world is the backdrop instead of post-war Hiroshima. When
screening the film Stuart Alson, who founded The New York
Independent Film and Video Festival, said that the piece
was "a parallel line of work with the French masterpiece
"Hiroshima Mon Amour".
Directed by Alain Resnais
Produced by Samy Halfon
Written by Marguerite Duras
Starring Emmanuelle Riva
Music by Georges Delerue
Cinematography Michio Takahashi
Editing by Jasmine Chasney
Distributed by Pathé Films
Release date(s) France:
June 10, 1959
May 16, 1960
Running time 90 minutes
Country France / Japan
Language French / Japanese / English