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Marguérite Duras (1914-1996) Alain Resnais (1922- ) Hiroshima mon Amour… history, trauma, memory, love, art and renewal 1959 Scénario 1960. Some Critical Issues…. The place of Duras and Resnais in 20 th century French culture Duras’ and Resnais’ background and output

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Marguérite Duras (1914-1996)Alain Resnais (1922- )Hiroshima mon Amour…history, trauma, memory, love, art and renewal1959Scénario 1960
some critical issues
Some Critical Issues…
  • The place of Duras and Resnais in 20th century French culture
  • Duras’ and Resnais’ background and output
  • Hiroshima mon Amour – reception and reputation
  • A work of protest?
  • Memory, identity and the representation of the past
  • The nature of love
  • Hiroshima mon Amour – atechnical masterpiece
duras resnais artists of their time
Duras, Resnais – artists of their time…
  • The ‘new wave’ and ‘films for grandad’… some contradictions
  • The personal and the historical
  • Beyond documentary - art and life - in the street or in the head?
some representatives of the new wave of directors
Some representatives of the ‘New Wave’ of directors…
  • Claude Chabrol
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Jacques Rivette
  • Eric Rohmer
  • Francois Truffaut
  • Roger Vadim…
and of the new novel
…and of the ‘new novel’…
  • Alain Robbe-Grillet
  • Michel Butor
  • Marguerite Duras
  • Nathalie Sarraute
duras life and background
Duras’ life and background
  • Prolific output… 1943-1989 – Le Marin de Gibraltar (1952); Moderato Cantabile (1958); Hiroshima mon Amour (1958/1960); Le Vice-Consul (1966); India Song (1973/1975); L’Amant (1984)…
  • A perpetual exile…The colonial childhood - her departure for France – marriage, loss and recognition – her lasting reputation as a writer…
alain resnais unique career
Alain Resnais’ unique career…

‘He marks the transition from a classic conception of the cinema towards its involvement with the ‘newnovel’ […] He is an inheritor of ‘poetic realism’ whilst being at the same time the initiator of a spectacular new movement which believes in the all-powerful influenceof dreams and the creative imagination’ (Train 2002 – www.ecrannoir )

resnais selected masterpieces
Resnais - selected masterpieces…

1956 Nuit et Brouillard

1959 Hiroshima mon Amour

1961 L’Annee derniere a Marienbad

1966 La Guerre est finie

1976 Providence

1980 Mon Oncle d’Amerique

hiroshima mon amour critical responses
Hiroshima mon Amour - critical responses
  • A controversial beginning – reception at Cannes Festival of 1959…
  • Politics… the relationship between text and image (‘un film litteraire…’) … pretentious…

‘I think that some years from now, in ten, twenty or maybe thirty years, we shall know whether Hiroshima is the most important film since the war, the first truly modern film of the talking era, or whether it is perhaps less important than we believe it to be today. Today there can be no doubting its extreme importance as a film, but it may be judged more important still with the passage of time’ Jacques Rivette ‘New Wave’ DirectorCahiers du Cinema (1959)

hiroshima a work of protest
Hiroshima – a work of protest?
  • The contemporary cultural context
  • Art and ‘engagement’
  • The problem of certainty
  • Resnais and Duras – a shared artistic perspective?
some references a genuine protest or a deliberate charade
Some references… a genuine protest or a deliberate charade?
  • ‘Impossible to talk about HIROSHIMA. All one can do is talk about the impossibility of talking about HIROSHIMA’ (9/10)
  • ‘An enlightening film about peace has just been completed. Not at all a ridiculous film, but just ANOTHER film.’ (11/14)
  • ‘All HIROSHIMA will be there, as it always is when the cause of Peace is at stake. In short, a baroque parade…’ (11/14)
protest as incantation
Protest as incantation…

‘Against whom the anger of entire cities? The anger of entire cities, whether they like it or not, against the inequality set forth as a principle by certain people against other people, against the inequality set forth as a principle by certain races against other races, against the inequality set forth as a principle by certain classes against other classes’ (22/31)

beyond the documentary
Beyond the documentary…

‘This is one of the principal goals of the film: to have done with the description of horror by horror, for that has been done by the Japanese themselves, but to make this horror rise again from these ashes by making it indistinguishable from a love that will necessarily be special and capable of evoking “wonder”, one that will be more credible than if it had occurred anywhere else in the world, that is in a place that death had not preserved’ (9/11)

memory forgetting and our relationship with the past some of the riddles of hiroshima
Memory, forgetting and our relationship with the past – some of the riddles of Hiroshima…
  • What is the link between the two love affairs and the horrors of Hiroshima?
  • How can we understand what we have not experienced ourselves?
  • How can we forget what we do not wish to remember?
  • How can we bear to forget what we have lived and lost yet want always to remember?
some references
Some references…

‘Oh it’s horrible. I’m beginning to remember you less clearly […] I’m beginning to forget you. I tremble at the thought of having forgotten so much love’ (64/99)

‘You think you know. And then no you don’t. Learning the exact duration marked by time. Knowing how time, sometimes, rushes forward then its slow, futile backward drift and that you have to carry on just the same, no doubt that too is how we acquire intelligence’ (79/109-10)

the nature of love
The nature of love…






identified with ill-doing,



carries with it its own mortality

its death or suppression equated with the extermination of life… as at Hiroshima

hence the link between ‘la tonte’ and the nature of mass-cruelty


‘Between two beings as totally distant from each other as it is possible to be: geographically, philosophically, historically, economically, racially etc., HIROSHIMA will be the common ground (perhaps the only common ground in the world?) where the universal properties of eroticism, love and misfortune will appear in a merciless light’ (9/12)


‘In a few years, when I’ve forgotten you and, through force of habit, have lived other experiences, like this one, I will think of you as I would of the forgetfulness of love itself. I will think of this adventure as of the horror brought about by forgetfulness. I know this already.’ (68/105)

yet despite its symbolic density hiroshima is psychologically and literally realistic
Yet, despite its symbolic density, Hiroshima is psychologically - and literally - realistic…

the love affair as therapy

The French woman’s hesitation regarding the outcome of the affair

the truth of their gestures and expressions

hiroshima mon amour a technical masterpiece
Hiroshima mon amour - a technical masterpiece
  • mise-en-scene/framing and montage/editing
  • receding perspective/lignes fuyantes, close-ups/gros plans and slow panning shots/travellings
  • mixing of image, music and dialogue
  • the lyrical beauty of the language
  • the quality of the acting

‘No exchange of vows. Not another single gesture. All they will do is address each other once more by name. Which names? NEVERS, HIROSHIMA. For in each other’s eyes, they are in fact no longer anyone. They are merely names of places, names which have lost their meaning as names. It is as though the disaster of a shaven woman at NEVERS and the disaster at HIROSHIMA corresponded to each other EXACTLY’. (13/17)


‘une histoire de quatre sous’ …?or a consummate allegorical meditation on the relationship between love, loss, personal trauma and the problems for humankind of expiating historical catastrophe…?or both…?