This was Alain Resnais' first fiction film which was released in 1959. Resnais was a bit older than some of the other directors in the French New Wave, and his style of shooting is more conventional. He often composes shots in an elegantly classic style, but his experimental nature reveals itself more in the plot structures he uses. He often collaborated with modern fiction writers on his screenplays, giving his films the feeling of a novel transposed to the screen.
The film is based on a man and a woman who have an affair with one another. There is a striking opening shot of their two bodies intertwined with one another. It looks like glitter has been sprinkled on them, and it makes them glisten in the camera as they slightly move together. This is an image that has stuck with me since I saw the film and it comes in my mind from time to time. One of the most beautiful shots I have ever seen in a film.
This film is concerned with addressing the topics of memory, representation, love, and war. The film explores questions of how one can make it a goal to remember an event like Hiroshima, when it was such an horrific event that one only wants to forget it? Both of them struggle and go back and forth over the questions they pose to one another. The man often says they she does not understand and can never understand. His entire family was killed in Hiroshima while he was at war, so he feels she can never truly understand his personal pain. At the same time, when she was twenty she had an affair with a German soldier and was made an outcast in her town because of it. She also went mad with mourning for a period and was kept in her parents basement until she was made to leave one night. She feels that the pain she holds from these events can never be understood by him. It is this equal sadness that each other hold inside themselves that is let out at each other when they have their affair. In exploring these questions at length, Resnais and his collaborator(s) seem to be saying that there is no resolution to the pain that war brings. One can only try to remember it as to not repeat the same mistakes again.