This essay threads the striking images of the couple’s embrace at the beginning of Hiroshima mon amour through an examination of the film’s exploration of memory and victim and perpetrator traumas. Duras and Resnais render the lovers almost indistinguishable as, they hold each other, encased in ash. As they embrace, something gently falls on them, encrypts them, isolates them from their surroundings but simultaneously embeds them in their respective histories. If, for Derrida, ash becomes the paradigm for the trace, we can see how this image becomes paradigmatic for memory’s unspooling threads; the film rejects an either/or memory or forgetting when it is a question of traumatic pasts. By re-reading Hiroshima mon amour through the powerful metaphorics of ash and against echoes of the international and dramatic rise in racist discourse, an increased anxiety about nuclear catastrophe, and a return to Duras’s wartime “memoir” La douleur, I show that these texts’ representation of memory and the rotating axes of perpetration and victimization open up larger questions about the trauma of both sides of the culpability line. This reading reveals the fluid border between victimization and perpetration in ways that help explain how both victims and perpetrators are traumatized. Interpreting the film and memoir in this way helps to blaze a path to envisioning an understanding of committing crimes as itself inflicting (self-imposed) trauma. The most optimistic possible implication (one that is completely unlikely) is that if perpetration is also viewed as traumatizing then perpetrators would no longer fling nuclear bombs at the racialized other and expect to sleep well.
- Hiroshima mon amour
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Cultural Studies
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology