Yes, I remember it tonight. But one day I will no longer remember it. At all. Nothing.
Directed by French director Alexander Renais and written by French author Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima, Mon Amour is a “La Nouvelle Vague” film which attempts to evoke the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through a forbidden love story between a Japanese man and a French woman. A film as multifaceted as this one can be thematically analyzed from many interesting angles. Of which I could spend pages and pages writing on. For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the themes that most resonated with me and the ongoing circumstances of my life. Memory and the tragedy of forgetting.
Emanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada play the unnamed lovers whose simple night of comfort is followed by that unexplainable spark that draws humans together. The burning desire to fall in love with one another. As the film progresses, glimpses of my own romantic experiences began to superimpose themselves onto these characters. The ghosts of my past lovers occupied the forefront of my memory. They revealed pieces of themselves through Riva's character. I saw them in her seductive smile and her self-ruling spirit. The way in which she fled from a romantic connection reminiscent of the lover she could never fully free herself from. In order to preserve her peace, she rejects her affections for this foreign man. All of which are behaviors tied to unhealed trauma she tries and fails to keep hidden.
I see younger, less wizened versions of myself through Okada’s masculine urge to rescue a wounded woman from her sadness, regardless of how much she may bleed on him. He idealizes her to the point where he fails to see her for the flawed woman that she is. His foolish desire to try and convince this woman he hardly knows to abandon her life to stay with him in Hiroshima brought to mind the irrationality of my one and only love and the thoughtless expectations I had for a mirage.
When one sinks into this abyss of remembrance, playing the role of the scorned ex-lover becomes effortless. It's easy to focus on the pain that comes with romantic fallout. People are rarely willing to take accountability for their part in heartbreak, too focused on their own wounded egos to see the bigger picture. What may have been a mostly positive experience becomes tainted with bitterness. This is where the tragedy of forgetting comes into play.
Hiroshima, Mon Amour explores the idea that eventually all will be forgotten. A lover who may have been the center of your world will most likely become nothing more than a vague memory. As time passes we lose key details about these lovers, the sound of their voice, the shape of their smile, the light their eyes emitted when their gaze met your own. Their names are reduced to the city they were born in, or maybe the place where you both met. Riva becomes Nevers in France, and Okada becomes Hiroshima in Japan. It made me question if it is beneficial to remember my time with these remarkable women for the way it ended.
The truth that a fleeting romance, especially when one is young, will be ultimately forgotten by us all is what makes them so beautiful. I would rather remember these brief periods of what I hope will be a long and fulfilling life for the exhilarating experiences they were. When the day comes that the details of our time together become distorted, I hope that what remains are those romantic feelings that breathe life into us. The way they made me feel desired, or sexy, or admired. When their names and their faces are wiped from my mind, I would like to think that reminiscing on those days when we were foolish enamored youths will still force a smile upon my face.
I encourage anyone who enjoys the subtlety of old filmmaking and who may feel disgruntled from past experiences to give this brilliant film a watch. Hiroshima, Mon Amour has become one of my all-time favorites.