Most of the shots in Hiroshima are from Lui’s “gaze”. Resnais employs intra-diegetic gaze, where one character is looking at another character. Even when he is speaking, we do not see Lui much. We see his naked back as Elle embraces him in bed. Entire conversations ensue while she digs her nails into his back. We also see many over-the-shoulder shots of Elle, but not many of Lui. Rare are the full frontal shots of Lui. Most of them are establishing shots or for effect. One such example is when we see his jealous face in the restaurant while Elle is being hit upon by another man.
Gaze is often perceived to determine the power structure or nature of a relationship between the subjects. Feminist theory would suggest that Lui’s point of view of Elle during all of their conversations implies his dominance over her. “The mutuality or non-mutuality of the gaze of the two parties can tell us who has the right and/or need to look at whom” (Lutz & Collins, 1994, 373). In Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, women are seen as “image” and men as “bearer of the look”. Psychoanalysis in film theory makes desire a male preoccupation.
The male spectator desires the female subject through objectification. According to Mulvey, the female is the object that the male desires and admires. She possesses the quality of “to-be-looked-at-ness”, whereas the male possess the ability to look, taking pleasure in looking at the female (1975). Psychoanalytical film theory suggests that we, the viewer, become the subject of a “gaze” that is largely constructed by the film, and that the subject on the screen becomes the object of our desire. We can see this throughout Hiroshima mon Amour.
Through the use of the male gaze, the viewer is treated to a view of Elle that only Lui can see. She reveals her heartbreaking story to Lui and to us, one that she has never told anyone before. We see her beautiful face and body. We see her pain and suffering in Nevers after her German lover is killed. We see the pain she suffers now at having to leave her Japanese lover. We connect with Elle and feel love for her. We want her to stay with Lui, with us, in Hiroshima. Feministic View of Hiroshima mon Amour
While Mulvey (1975) suggests that one must first “identify with” the camera itself as if it were one’s own eyes in order to accept the viewpoint offered, to suspend disbelief, Susan Sontag (1979) suggests that the camera exploits the subject while maintaining some distance. One can really feel this in the scenes where Elle is locked in her parents’ basement. She claws at the walls, her fingers raw and bleeding. She resorts to eating the saltpeter off the walls. She stares down a cat, her only companion for months.
We feel her pain, but yet remain removed from it. It almost seems as though she is paying her dues. For being a woman in love with the enemy? Or is it for merely for being a woman? From a feministic standpoint, it should be noted that the story line itself gives all the power to Lui. He is delighted when he finds out that Elle has not shared her story with anyone. That gives him the upper hand with her. He even shows jealousy when she goes to a restaurant, sits by herself, and is approached by another man.
They are both married, yet it is never discussed what he is to do with his wife. He asks Elle to remain in Hiroshima, so that he can be near her. She should give up her life for him, but no mention is made of him giving up anything for her. When Elle returns to her hotel room, after she has made the decision to return home, she cannot go inside. The implication is that she does not want to return to the room where they made love. Yet no mention is made of them having been in his house. In fact, we don’t even really know what they did there.
She returns to the Tea Room where they had drinks, where he got her drunk, where she bared her soul to him. Interestingly, she told him everything, making herself vulnerable to him. He did not really tell her much of anything. He alluded to difficulties due to the war, but did not go into any details. Just that he lost his family in the bombing. The movie seems to suggest that women should succumb to men’s will and bare their souls, and that men should not reciprocate. Men should take control. Men should listen quietly. Men should give women drink to help them to lose their inhibitions.
Men should get women to agree to what is “good for them” and for all. Elle states it well herself, when she says, “You annihilate me. You are good for me. ” Summary Through a structuralistic, psychoanalytical, and feministic reading of Hiroshima moon Amour, a viewer can get quite a different look at an at once beautiful and disturbing film. Even more than 47 years later, the film still intrigues. It still makes statements about the state of the world, about the state of relationships, about the state of love and life, and about how to make a great film.
Lutz, Catherine & Jane Collins (1994): ‘The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes: The Example of National Geographic’. In Visualizing Theory, edited by Taylor, L. (New York: Routledge), 363-84. Mulvey, L. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”, reprinted from Screen, 16:3 (Autumn 1975), pp. 6-18, in Contemporary Film Theory by Anthony Easthope (London: Longman Group, 1993), pp. 111-124. Sontag, S. (1979). On Photography. Harmondsworth: Penguin.