Hiroshima mon amour

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Hiroshima mon amour
Hiroshima Mon Amour 1959.jpg
Original 1959 movie poster
Directed byAlain Resnais
Written byMarguerite Duras
Produced by
Edited by
Music by
Distributed by
Release date
  • 8 May 1959 (1959-05-08) (Cannes)
  • 10 June 1959 (1959-06-10) (France)
  • 20 June 1959 (1959-06-20) (Japan)
Running time
90 minutes
  • France
  • Japan

Hiroshima mon amour (French pronunciation: ​[iʁoʃima mɔ̃n‿amuʁ]; "Hiroshima My Love"; Japanese: 二十四時間の情事, romanizedNijūyojikan'nojōji, "Twenty-four-hour affair") is a 1959 French New Wave romantic drama film directed by French film director Alain Resnais with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras. Resnais' first feature-length work, the film is a co-production between France and Japan, and documents a series of intensely personal nonlinear conversations (or one enormous conversation) over a 36-hour long period between a French actress, Elle (which means "Her"), and a Japanese architect, Lui (which means "Him").

It was a major catalyst for the Left Bank Cinema, making use of miniature flashbacks to create a nonlinear storyline. It brought international attention to the new movement in French cinema, along with films like Breathless and The 400 Blows. The film features Resnais' innovative use of brief flashbacks sequences to suggest a flash of memories. The movie is widely considered to be one of the most influential movies of the French New Wave.


An extended prologue shows a man and a woman embracing each other amidst falling ash. A female voice recounts seeing the devastation caused by the Hiroshima bomb on August 6, 1945, while a male voice refutes her claims, saying she saw nothing. They continue to disagree with each other as news footage of the attack is intercut with footage of the victims, new war memorials, and buildings in Hiroshima.

Elle stands on a hotel balcony in Hiroshima, overlooking the city. She comes back inside to see her lover, Lui, naked and asleep on the bed. He wakes up, and the two begin their day. Elle goes to work on the film set of an anti-war film while Lui goes to a World War II museum before visiting the set. Throughout the film, the two converse about memory and forgetfulness as Elle prepares to return to France, putting an end to their brief relationship.

That evening, Elle and Lui go to a restaurant and discuss their murky pasts. Elle grew up in the French town of Nevers under German occupation during the war. She fell in love with a young German soldier and the two made plans to elope, only for him to be shot and killed on the day of Nevers's liberation by the Allies. Traumatized, Elle was publicly ostracized for her relationship with the soldier and imprisoned in the basement of her parents' home. Her health eventually recuperated to the point where she could travel, and she arrived in Paris on the day of the Hiroshima bombing. Lui, a Hiroshima native, was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army during the war but was away on duty when the bomb dropped and wiped out his family. He returned to Hiroshima after the war and became an architect, during which time he also married.

The pair continue to compare their past relationships with the bombing of Hiroshima and the perspectives of anonymity shared by the people inside and outside the incident. Eventually, Lui asks Elle to stay with him but she turns him down as she has family in France and he has a wife. Reaching the conclusion that her love for Lui is doomed to fail, similar to her love for the German soldier, Elle goes back to the hotel and Lui follows. She lashes out at him, claiming that she is already starting to forget who he is. Exasperated, she begins calling him "Hiroshima"; Lui affirms that he is Hiroshima and that she is "Nevers."



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 1956 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.[1]

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 Japanese, and also required that the film be shot in both countries employing film crews comprising technicians from each.[1]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Hiroshima mon amour earned an Oscar nomination for screenwriter Marguerite Duras as well as the Fipresci International Critics' Prize at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival,[2] where the film was excluded from the official selection because of its sensitive subject matter of nuclear bombs as well as to avoid upsetting the U.S. government.[3] It won the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association in 1960.[4] In 2002, it was voted by the international contributors of the French film magazine Positif to be one of the top 10 films since 1952, the first issue of the magazine.

Hiroshima mon amour has been described as "The Birth of a Nation of the French New Wave" by American critic Leonard Maltin.[5] 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".[6] 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".[7]

The Dutch actor Rutger Hauer cited Hiroshima mon amour as one of his favorite films.[8]

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 The War Is Over and Last Year at Marienbad.

It was shown as part of the Cannes Classics section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival,[9] as well as having nine screenings at the Harvard Film Archive between 28 November and 13 December 2014.[10]

Film references[edit]

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.[1]

Cultural errors[edit]

In Japan Journals: 1947-2004, film historian Donald Richie tells in an entry for 25 January 1960 of seeing the film in Tokyo and remarks on various distracting (for the Japanese) cultural errors which Resnais made. He notes, for example, that the Japanese-language arrival and departure time announcements in the train scenes bear no relation to the time of day in which the scenes are set. Also, people pass through noren curtains into shops which are supposedly closed. The noren is a traditional sign that a shop is open for business and is invariably taken down at closing time.[11]

In popular culture[edit]


The film has inspired several songs.


  • In 2001, Japanese film director Nobuhiro Suwa directed a remake, titled H Story.[12]
  • 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's nearly a half century later. 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 International Independent Film and Video Festival, said that the piece was "a parallel line of work with the French masterpiece Hiroshima mon amour".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Monaco, James (1979). Alain Resnais. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-520037-3.
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Hiroshima Mon Amour". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
  3. ^ Lanzoni, Remi Fournier French Cinema: From Its Beginnings to the Present, London: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd., 2004, p229
  4. ^ ""The Artist" reçoit le grand prix de l'Union de la critique de cinéma". rtl.be (in French). Archived from the original on 2013-12-20. Retrieved 2012-07-22.
  5. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1995). "Alain Resnais". Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. Plume. p. 744. ISBN 978-0-452-27058-9. Retrieved 2011-09-02. Resnais's first 35 mm feature Hiroshima mon amour (1959) — in 1946, he made a 16 mm feature Ouvert pour cause d'inventaire — dealt with the nature of history and memory, and deviated from traditional notions of narrative time as it recounted a fleeting liaison between a French actress and Japanese architect. Its sexual candor and provocative ideas, wedded to a dazzlingly sophisticated visual style, made Hiroshima, Mon Amour the New Wave's The Birth of a Nation and it deservedly won the Cannes Film Festival International Critics Prize.
  6. ^ "in Michael S. Smith, "Hiroshima Mon Amour", DVD release review in Popmatters.com". Archived from the original on 2006-04-21. Retrieved 2006-07-01.
  7. ^ Kent Jones, "Time Indefinite", essay for the Criterion Collection DVD release. Accessed 23 May 2007
  8. ^ Luke Goodsell (May 4, 2011). "Five Favorite Films with Rutger Hauer". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  9. ^ "Cannes Classics 2013 line-up unveiled". Screen Daily. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
  10. ^ "Harvard Film Archive Detailed Calendar Page for "Hiroshima Mon Amour"". Harvard Film Archive. Retrieved 2015-01-28.
  11. ^ Richie, Donald Japan Journals: 1947-2004, Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2004, p126
  12. ^ "Festival de Cannes: H Story". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-19.
  13. ^ "Best French Films Ever. 39. Hiroshima, Mon Amour". www.topfrenchfilms.info. Retrieved 2014-12-12.

External links[edit]