Whenever one talks about Alain Resnais, his exploration of subjective memory of past events takes the centre stage. I haven’t seen any of his movies except for Hiroshima My love. It’s not only subjective memory of the past but also subjectivity as a whole which concerns him, coupled with fragile nature of time n memory engraved in existential dilemmas.
The opening sequence shows an extreme closeup of a pair of naked torsos of two lovers embracing each other, with a glint of snowy ash n sweat on them. As the scene progresses images of the aftermath of Hiroshima bombing are shown. A female voiceover emerges talking about Hiroshima as the images appear on screen. The voiceovers n the images give the opening sequence a poetic rhythm. As she talks about the images, which could be her memories also, the male (or the lover) repeatedly says that she “saw nothing of Hiroshima”. The poetic narrative is cut short as the camera moves to show the faces of the lovers.
The lady is in Hiroshima for a movie on ‘Peace’ and the young man was an Architect from there. Their rendezvous extends as the young man requests her to stay or at least meet again before she leaves tomorrow. Then they meet again at her work place after her work is over. Images of Hiroshima and its aftermath visit again as a procession pass though. She experiences few uneasy moments during that procession. Now after that they sit at a restaurant, drinking, where she starts telling him about her past, her first love in the city of Nevers in Paris. Earlier the young man had complained her of him not know much about her also. Their relationship till now had been fleeting yet bordering on something serious. Now the main intent of the movie comes forward.
She begins her story, talking about her German lover during the war and the subsequent traumatic experience after his death. The narration by her moves in a non chronological fashion, at times she confuses the young man as the German lover during the traumatic events in the cellar that her family imposed upon her part due to embarrassment and part due to her behaviour at that time. The experience as she presents to the young man is more of an analogy of our, hers or anybody’s understanding of Hiroshima or any other event. The present and past submerge, with things moving in a non chronological manner make time looses meaning. Perceptions and memori es, layer together to, produce an experience that constantly moves in time. The scene where the young Architect rejoices on the fact that he’s the first person whom she has told the Nevers tale, refrences to our own jubilatio n of coming to know and understand something in past which we may have never experienced ourselves (or may be we have), something like say Hiroshima. As things move in the night she tries to leave, but the young man keeps on following her. Interesting to observe is the distance that befalls between them even as they sit in the same place. Be it the old women separating them at the railway station or both sitting on separate tables in the restaurant (different one from the earlier restaurant) as the dawn approaches. This distancing more or less refers to the gap between ones understanding/perception of anything vis-a-vis the actual happening, or even the subjective understanding of something by two separate beings. Till the end she doesn’t agrees to stay back. The movie ends with her telling him that “Hiroshima. That’s your name.” And his reply “That’s my name. Yes. Your name is Nevers. Nevers in France.”
A good review talking about the film’s contrivbution in the French New Wave and the impact on cinema coming after that.