Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Understand/You Understand Nothing

Hiroshima Mon Amour(1959)
Directed By Alain Resnais
Hiroshima Mon Amour is a beautiful, lyrical, sexy, gorgeously shot, romantic, and dizzying film.I didn’t find it sexist as one freind of mine told it was (the slap? If a character is sexist, does that mean the entire film is as well?), or merely the tale of two cultures meeting.A Japanese architect whose family was in Hiroshima when the bomb fell, and a French actress in the city to shoot a film about "peace", have an affair. The first 20 minutes are incredible, disturbing, haunting, surreal montage of images and poetic narration. "I saw the sorrow of Hiroshima", she says in bed. "You saw nothing" he responds. The two are both married, but have an intense affair, that despite or maybe because there meeting is omitted, is made all the more sensual, desperate, and genuine. The music and cinematography is flawless. The actress’s back story dominates for the most part there after. She recounts her first love and disgrace, retold in flashbacks, about one of the even greater cultural taboos, and I imagine a critique of French politics of collusion in WW2; her love for a young Nazi soldier. But there’s more here than just politics and to look at this film on only a political level is to miss, the heart of the film. This heart is not that love conquers all, but that desire is irrepressible and has no social or moral compass. It can bring despair and ruin, or come from the ashes of the same place. Pain cannot be separated from pleasure ever, or both diminish and wither away in memory. The architect imagines he understands her story of love lost, just as she imagines she understands his story of the bombing of his hometown. Both of them by the end, realize they cant or don’t want to truly understand these stories anyway. Their relationship is not the kind of love that your grandparents shared or didn’t, but desire itself; fleeting and all consuming. It may be for only a moment when both of them are between their own private worlds, but it is a love, true as any. And as for the ending feeling incomplete, which I’ve heard some people suggest, I think that’s how it should be. In the final scene the couple is staring at each other from across the room in silence, only speaking to say aloud to someone else, what they mean for each other to hear.


Karl Leschinsky said...

Gonna read this tonight because I saw Resnais' "Wild Grass" here at TIFF and enjoyed it but couldn't get through the first half hour of this. (Though it starts off about as brilliantly as anything I've seen.)

Joe Sylvers said...

Ive heard good stuff about "Wild Grass" you should check out, "Mon Oncle D'Amerique", that's easily my favorite Resnais. Totally brilliant, and funny, and insightful and great!