Intermediate french new wave: Hiroshima mon amour

Still from Hiroshima mon amour, with english subtitles

If plays are relatively easy reading projects, screenplays are even easier. TV and film are more familiar than theatre for most of us, it is easier to find movie versions of screenplays, and those movies are more likely to have subtitles. Given these advantages, I thought I’d try reading a more difficult genre of screenplay: experimental film.

Hiroshima mon amour is a film by Left Bank filmmaker Alain Resnais, with a screenplay by experimental novelist Marguerite Duras. It portrays an intimate conversation between two lovers about memory, time, and war. The film is known for using flashbacks in a jarring way, as if past memories are intruding suddenly in the present. Reading the script, with the writer’s notes and directions included, makes the different time periods quite clear.

It’s an interesting type of reading practice. The vocabulary and language is simple and the script is short, but the statements and ideas are abstract and strange, with complicated emotions. I enjoyed it, with my limited french language skills and my better-developed thinking and feeling skills.

There is a beautiful Criterion edition of the film, if you want to see the finished work (and practice listening).