One Night Stand: Thoughts on Hiroshima Mon Amour
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
By Marguerite Duras
Hiroshima Mon Amour is a screenplay written by Marguerite Duras and there’s a movie of the same name directed by Alain Resnais. I didn’t watch the movie, but I did read the screenplay.
The story is about a passionate love affair between a French actress, known as “She/Her” and a Japanese architect, known as “He/Him.” The two spend a single night together which leads to a series of conversations that unlocks the woman’s hidden secret. However, in the end, it is implied that there is an inevitable “goodbye” as the two lovers go their separate ways.
The way the screenplay was written is a bit confusing because we get a mixture of present-day moments and flashbacks. However, these scenes are blended together as if you can’t tell the time difference (past or present). For example, in Part 4, the woman goes on a series of monologues and as a reader, you aren’t completely sure who she is directing her conversation to, her current lover, the Japanese man, or her first love, the German soldier. If I watched the movie, I think I would be able to understand the functioning of the flashback sequences because the screenplay doesn’t give any indication of it. In fact, as a reader, you had to guess whether or not the scenes were flashbacks.
This play focuses on the pain of losing a loved one and how one’s deals with that suffering. The woman in the play holds onto a memory of her first love in a negative manner. It isn’t until she meets the Japanese man and reveals to him about her first love that we see her finally being vulnerable and acknowledging her pain. I get this impression because she didn’t tell this story to her husband but instead, she reveals it to someone she barely knows.
In fact, by sharing this personal and intimate story to the Japanese man, there’s a special connection between them since she trusts him more than her husband. Also, the Japanese man is similar to the German man in which the woman fell in love with enemy soldiers during WW2 and post WW2. So you see connections in how similar the men she picked are and the process as to how she fell in love with both men.
The last thing I took note about in this book is the allegorical representation of the countries. Our main protagonists are not given any names but instead, they are just referred to as pronouns. However, there’s significance to the cities that were mentioned: these are the cities where her love affairs took place. In addition, Hiroshima is a significant city in WW2 because it’s one of the places where the atomic bomb landed. In the beginning, the French woman claimed that she has seen all of Hiroshima and knows the city now, but her understanding comes from what she saw and heard about during the war, hence, as to why the Japanese man claimed that she doesn’t know Hiroshima at all. He’s right because she only saw the negative side of it, war, as opposed to the beauty this city has to offer, which is represented by the love and passion from the Japanese man.
Hiroshima Mon Amour has an avant-garde tone. It’s a postwar story about an interracial love affair between a French woman and a Japanese man and the story is driven by the emotions between the characters.
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