Excerpted from the author’s 2018 honors thesis
Couples Lost in Time: Hiroshima, mon amour and L’Eclisse
Not yet identified lovers embrace in the abstract prologue of Hiroshima, mon amour
In Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (1983) and Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985), Gilles Deleuze defines two main types of filmic images. The movement-image refers to classical cinema and, though complex, can be generally thought of as narrative-driven cinema. In the movement-image, time functions as a structure, or as David Bordwell puts it, “time in the classical film is a vehicle for causality, not a process to be investigated on its own” (47). Time carries the narrative from beginning to middle to end; it is a tool used to present events in narratively meaningful sequences. In the movement-image, movement subjugates time.
However, in the time-image of modern cinema, “it is no longer time which is subordinate to movement; it is movement which subordinates itself to time” (Deleuze 260). Time becomes the locus of cinema – no longer is it simply a means towards an end, but an end in itself. As Deleuze writes, “the relation, sensory-motor situation indirect image of time is replaced by a non-localizable relation, pure optical and sound situation direct time-image” (39). The time-image is not a total departure from narrative, but is a fragmentation of it. Narratives are spliced with visual and auditory moments that are “disconnected from any organizing schema” (Bogue 171). The narratives that once existed in clear sequences are disrupted as time itself is brought to the fore. Construction of narrative time becomes difficult as the linearity of time is questioned and the delineations of past, present, and future become muddled.
Modern cinema arose after the end of World War II because of the introduction of new ideas that could not be represented by the movement-image. Specifically, Deleuze attributes the failure of the movement-image to “the rise of situations to which one can no longer react, of environments with which there are now only chance relations, of empty or disconnected any-space-whatevers replacing qualified extended space” (261). According to Deleuze, the time-image was created because the horrors of the war had rendered the structured narratives of the movement-image implausible. A new system of images had to evolve to replace this now defunct one. Deleuze cites Yasujiro Ozu as the forefather of the time-image (13), but the style develops in a wide variety of environments, including Italian neorealist cinema, French New Wave cinema, and American underground cinema. Modern cinema seeks out replacements for classical cinema’s lost powers of conviction; it must find new ways to reconnect humans with their world (261).
If modern cinema is a move away from the formal conventions of classical cinema, then it might seem surprising that one of the signatures of classical cinema remains: the romantic couple. In classical cinema, the couple is one of the main drivers of both aesthetic and narrative structure. In many films, like It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934) or The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor, 1940), the fulfillment of romantic love serves as the primary guiding theme for character motivation. In the classical tradition, many films have the pursuit of love as the main plot structure and often; these films end in marriage. The use of coupling in narratives occurs outside the frame of romantic comedies as well — even science fiction films such as Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) and suspense films such as Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock, 1943) end in the couplings of the main characters. In this narrative mode, couples are an easy and effective way to establish parameters and goals for a narrative. Love provides character motivation and couples provide narrative resolution.
The romantic couple shows up again in modern cinema, but in a new form. Herein appears the theme of the estranged couple. In films like Breathless (À bout de souffle, Jean-Luc Godard, 1960), Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika, Ingmar Bergman, 1953), and 8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963), couples play central narrative roles. Though the romantic couple remains, classical romance’s linear narrative discontinues in modern cinema. Communication fails between the lovers of modern cinema and they fail to reach romantic conclusions. Character intentions and emotions are no longer knowable because the previous mode of heavily-structured relationships has fallen apart. The estranged couples of modern cinema grapple with the role of memory and desire in their relationships and, inevitably, must split apart.
Love is still the ultimate goal of many of these films. Modern cinema does not reflect a disillusionment with love, but rather a reorganized process of reaching it. This may, in some ways, represent an attempt to make its relationships more “realistic,” but it is also an attempt to search for new relationships between humans, love, and the world. In Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika, Monika (Harriet Andersson) and Harry (Lars Ekborg) spend a summer in the Stockholm archipelago which leads to them getting married back in the city. The two try to find happiness through interpersonal relations in marriage, but this fails and Monika finally abandons Harry. The couple cannot find love in the traditional destination of the romance narrative (marriage) because the city forces them to assume stereotypical gender roles: Monika becomes a stay-at-home mother while Harry works. Rather, the characters find love only during the brief interlude that the two spend on the archipelago. These scenes are idyllic, but the film constantly reminds its audience that it can be only temporary, done by intercutting shots of clocks. Modern cinema recognizes that love must be found in new outlets outside the routine of romantic fulfillment followed in classical cinema. The love in Summer with Monika exists as moments of respite in nature which stand free from the cultural control of the classical romance narrative.
One of the most salient running themes in modern cinema is that of disconnection. Individuals in modern cinema are disconnected from other people, their environments, and from history. The estranged couple can be thought of as an attempt to rediscover connection — by representing disconnected people, cinema can seek a way to reconnect them. Often then, the characters of modern cinema have complicated relationships not only with their partners, but also with their environments, histories, and memories. In Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris, 1963), a fighting couple serves as the main plot of the film, but this couple is frequently decentered both visually and narratively. Particularly during the apartment scene midway through the film, Godard uses elements of the landscape to draw barriers between the two lovers.
Contempt refuses to let its narratives exist apart from the rest of the world — the environment frequently plays as important a role as the lovers themselves. The film inhabits a melodramatic romance narrative, but only in order to explore new connections between lovers and their environment.
The theme of disconnection and also that of ambiguity figures prominently in the two case studies of this chapter: Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima, mon amour (1959) and Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse (1962). Both of these films center on romance: in Hiroshima, mon amour, it is between Elle (Emmanuelle Riva) and Lui (Eiji Okada); and in L’Eclisse, it is first between Vittoria (Monica Vitti) and Riccardo (Francisco Rabal) and then between Vittoria and Piero (Alain Delon). In each of these romances, the lovers are unable to communicate their intentions or emotions to the other, and they eventually go their separate ways. These films contrast estranged couples with their classical romance narrative counterparts in order to depict disruptions in this narrative mode. The lovers in these films appear disconnected and lost by comparison to those within the narrative structure of the movement-image.
Hiroshima mon amour and L’Eclisse represent important poles for this study, particularly with how they conceptualize time in its relation to narrative structure. In Hiroshima, mon amour, memories blur the line between past and present. Because of this, both space-time specificity and identity become ambiguous — time renders the lovers unrecognizable. Without the clearly defined linear progression of events of classical cinema, the lovers fail to establish a connection and ultimately breakup. In contrast, the couples in L’Eclisse are disconnected from the past, experiencing and perceiving without necessarily remembering. These couples cannot communicate with each other because of a lack of shared history — they encounter each other and have moments of tenuous connection, but they meet moment-to-moment as strangers without the memory of the past to direct their next course of action. Where the couple in Hiroshima, mon amour is tangled with memory and without spatiotemporal direction, the couples in L’Eclisse are distant and locked in the ever-recurring present. The collapse of the couple is the collapse of a central narrative guiding force, freeing time from the constraints of classical narrative structure.
Time without Borders in Hiroshima mon amour
Alain Resnais (1922-2014), now a well-regarded arthouse filmmaker, first rose to fame for his contributions to the Left Bank movement, a group of filmmakers, including Agnès Varda and Chris Marker, who worked concurrently with the more famous “Young Turks” of the French New Wave like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. Films from the Left Bank tended to focus on relationships between documentary and fiction; politics and its artistic representation; and cinema in comparison to other art forms (Neupert 299). Most of Resnais’ early work deals with attempting to understand traumatic historical events: Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard, 1956) investigates the remains of concentration camps in Auschwitz and Majdanek and Muriel, or the Time of Return (Muriel, ou le Temps d’un retour, 1963) depicts the psychological aftermath of French soldiers after the Franco-Algerian war. Hiroshima, mon amour, which premiered at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, concerns the traumatic experience of a Japanese man after the Hiroshima bombing and that of a French woman after being punished over an affair with a German officer during World War II. Resnais’ work features prominently in Deleuze’s Cinema 2 particularly because of the way time takes on a new importance, often controlling the other elements of the film and thereby, for Deleuze, providing one of the strongest examples of the time-image in modern cinema (112-121).
In Hiroshima mon Amour, a Japanese man (credited as Lui) and a French woman (credited as Elle) begin a romantic relationship after meeting at a café in post-war Hiroshima. They each tell stories from their past in an attempt to understand one another as they walk around New Hiroshima, the city rebuilt after Hiroshima’s destruction in 1945. Elle claims that she has learned about the horrors of the Hiroshima bombing from documentaries and museums, but Lui, a native of Hiroshima, denies that this is possible. Elle, then, tells a story about her romance with a German officer in her hometown of Nevers, France during World War II. When the war ended, her head was shaved and she was locked in a cellar. Both characters are haunted by their pasts and seemingly fail to understand the other’s story. The film ends as Elle decides to return to Paris and leave Lui behind in Hiroshima, despite his attempts to get her to stay.
The first shot of Hiroshima, mon amour depicts two bodies intermingled in an embrace. These same two bodies (or what appear to be) are then shown in different positions, all intertwined, over the following series of shots. The framing of these shots omits the faces of the characters, which effectively renders these two bodies indecipherable from one another. By classical film logic, the film should employ longer shots here to establish how these two people exist within their environment, but this does not occur. The film opens with this sequence of shots and then cuts away to footage recorded of various locations in Hiroshima, including a hospital and a museum. The film intermittently cuts back to the scene of the two bodies lying intertwined in bed, but it does not provide spatial or narrative context until nearly fifteen minutes into the film, when it finally zooms out to show the faces of these characters as they lie together in a bed.
This opening prevents us from approaching the film with any “sense of mastery” (Craig 114). It intentionally disorients us by excluding narrative context and denying any sense of a clear spatiotemporal focal point. It is unclear how the different aural and visual components of this opening scene relate to each other because no apparent narrative structure has emerged. The film imitates the structure of a flashback opening where Elle and Lui talk in voiceover while images meant to signify Elle’s past appear on screen, but the demarcation between what exists in the past and what exists in the present is ambiguous. As Deleuze remarks about Resnais’ cinema, “there is a disappearance of the centre or fixed point” (113). By classical film logic, flashbacks should be clearly set apart from the present course of narrative action (often by use of a visual or aural signifier, like a sound to signal the transition), but Resnais depicts the past alongside the present to the point that it becomes impossible to construct a spatiotemporal foothold by which to comprehend the course of narrative events. The film even conflates past and present within the same shot. This opening shot shows the two bodies intermingled covered with a sand-like material. We know later that the bodies probably belong to Elle and Lui as they lie in bed together, but the sand-like material reminds us of ash covering the bodies of Hiroshima victims. Within a single image, signifiers of past and signifiers of present have overlapping existence, appearing indistinguishable from one another.
This concept of indistinguishable bodies extends from human bodies in this first scene to that of cities in a later one. The scene starts with Elle walking down the streets of Hiroshima as Lui follows her from a distance. As Elle walks through the city, the camera focuses on different parts of the street (signs, storefronts, pedestrians, etc.), and thereby represents Elle’s point-of-view during her walk. Then, without demarcation, the film starts to intercut shots of Nevers’ streets with the shots of Hiroshima streets, as if these two cities were contiguous. Because the shots of Hiroshima’s streets represent Elle’s point-of-view, the intercutting of Nevers’ streets has temporal significance. The streets of Nevers represent the past while the streets of Hiroshima represent the present. Again, past and present are muddled. Elle’s experiences in Hiroshima are mediated and limited by her experiences in Nevers — her memories overcome the ability to perceive the present.
Freely mixing between past and present demonstrates new interpretations of time and causality as they relate to cinema. Anthea Buys writes that “memory…traverses time (past, present, and future), and yet also ‘hovers between’ time, remaining tentatively motile” (52). Like memory, cinema brings the past into the present (scenes of the past are literally replayed in the present), but the past simultaneously remains in the past. When past and present coexist like so, their delineation is lost and “Linear causality is ruptured: any conventions or assumptions governing temporal or causal relationships — the very existence of the categories of past and present — collapse” (Craig 111-112). The blurring of the boundary between past and present defeats the classical use of time as narrative structure. Hiroshima, mon amour depicts time as something absolved of dramatic association. The film’s dissolution of temporal categories creates a time-image, one where time is no longer subjugated to movement.
The deconstruction of the classical romance narrative in Hiroshima, mon amour continues through its denial of specific, identifiable characters. Neither lover in the film has an actual name — they are referred to by the pronouns Elle and Lui (which translate to her and him respectively). Bordwell and Thompson write that “classical Hollywood cinema often constructs a narrative around characters with definite traits who want to achieve specific goals” (Film Art, 385). The characters of Hiroshima mon amour lack even the most fundamental specifier — that of a name. These lovers try to understand each other via stories in an attempt to transform one another from persons of ambiguous or missing identity into specific, identifiable individuals. In order for this couple to last, the two lovers must be able to identify each other apart from other people. The lovers spend the course of the film searching for something to function as an identifier — something that will distinguish their relationship apart from others.
In Hiroshima mon amour, these identifiers prove difficult to come by. Specifically, the intrusion of memory and its blurring of the demarcation between past and present renders identity an ambiguous and amorphous concept. Deleuze writes that, in Resnais’ cinema, “events do not just succeed each other or simply follow a chronological course; they are constantly being rearranged according to whether they belong to a particular sheet of past, a particular continuum of age, all of which coexist” (116). If experiences construct an identity, then the free exchange between past and present, or experiences and perceptions, distorts this construction. Because the past and present freely interchange, identity based on a stable backstory becomes difficult to parse. Hiroshima, mon amour cannot define its protagonists by their backstories because these backstories are in constant fluctuation.
The search for identifiers culminates in the final scene when they name each other: Lui names Elle “Nevers” and Elle names Lui “Hiroshima.” Their attempts to understand one another through their respective pasts all boils down to two words. The great task of identifying their relationship seems to fail completely at this moment — all the knowledge that each has gained about the other is reduced to a place name. Siobhan Craig writes that these names “represent the rupture of any stable identity, the collapse of models of subjectivity. The self is fragmented and scattered, reduced metaphorically to ash and rubble containing the disheveled, randomly scattered elements of what once existed” (125). The lovers seek identification through the past, but this results in an oversimplification that ultimately denies the romantic connection that each seeks. After all, Elle eventually decides to return to Paris, leaving “Hiroshima” behind with the rest of New Hiroshima.
The names “Hiroshima” and “Nevers” refer to specific cities, but they also function as signifiers of memory. Ivan Villarmea Alvarez writes that “subjective spatial history depends on the feelings, emotions and experiences that we associate with certain places, which may ultimately become our places of memory” (2) and furthermore that “places of memory are thereby our anchors in time and space, the points of reference from which we can shape our personality, establish our identity and counteract the alienation resulting from contemporary processes of globalization” (3). Elle and Lui adapt each other, like cities, into places of memory. Each “visits” the other and learns a story, but the exchange ends here. Even while they interact in the present, each lover has come to represent the past. The time of the time-image has subordinated each character into a memory which cannot drive the narrative of the film, ultimately denying the couple any romantic resolution.
It is not the couple, but time which plays the center role in Hiroshima, mon amour. The memories of Elle and Lui bridge the present with the past, allowing for a free exchange of time. This results in the loss of demarcation between past and present and thereby, the linear progression of time that informs the classical romance narrative ruptures. The romance of Elle and Lui cannot continue in the time-image because of the resultant loss of specific space-time coordinates and character identities. They exchange stories, but each lover simply becomes another memory for the other, memorialized in the symbolic naming gesture at the end of the film. Without the narrative cohesion afforded by classical cinema, these lovers are overwhelmed by their pasts to the point that their interactions are subsumed into memory.
Momentary Love in L’Eclisse
Vittoria (Monica Vitti) and Piero (Alain Delon) killing time, not quite together, in L’Eclisse
Among those filmmakers whose oeuvre contributes significantly to Deleuze’s theorization of the time-image is Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007), who started his film career working as part of the post-World War II movement called Italian Neorealism. This movement stressed realistic depictions of lower-class individuals in their day-to-day lives, but Antonioni’s work, including early films like Story of a Love Affair (Cronaca di un amore, 1950) broke from this with a tendency to focus on the day-to-day lives of middle-class individuals instead. Antonioni’s breakthrough success came with the premiere of his film, L’Avventura (1960) at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. L’Avventura began an informal trilogy with his later films La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse. The films famously depict the alienation effects of late capitalism on humans living in the modern world. Antonioni’s films make use of couples as narrative centerpieces, but these couples experience communication failures and eventually split up. Antonioni presents romance narratives, but experiments with film form in a way that deconstructs narrative time, leaving the lovers isolated from history.
L’Eclisse, the final film in Antonioni’s discontented modernity trilogy, demonstrates this deconstruction of narrative time, particularly with regard to the romantic couple. The film starts with Vittoria and Riccardo just after they have decided to break up their relationship. The film then follows Vittoria as she tries to talk to her neighbors and family about her break-up. While she is searching for her mother at the stock exchange, she meets Piero, and the two begin a relationship of their own. Their outings culminate in a kiss exchanged on a sidewalk corner near a construction site and they eventually make love in Piero’s apartment. The morning after doing so, they promise to start meeting every evening by the construction site where they had previously kissed. The final scene consists of shots of the construction site without either lover present, indicating that they had failed to keep their promise that evening.
This failure to meet stems from a reconfiguration of dramatic hierarchies established in the first shot of the film. The shot shows a table of objects, including a lamp and a row of books. Suddenly, one of the objects resting on the row of books moves and is revealed to be a human arm. In its first shot, the film confuses the human form for an anonymous object. Something that is intimately related to the human experience has already been misrecognized. As Gilberto Perez writes, “an Antonioni film designedly disorients us, not to promote confusion but in the recognition that our accustomed ways of making sense are no longer reliable, our received assumptions about the world no longer adequate, and in the attempt to find new bearings amid uncertainty, new ways of apprehending and ordering our experience” (369). The human form does not occupy the central dramatic role in this opening shot, the objects do. This shot conceals the difference between a human and an object and plasters over the traditional dramatic hierarchy of humans over objects. Just in this first shot, the film has reworked the relationship between humans and their environment, doing so in the context of a couple on the brink of separating.
This opening shot introduces Vittoria and Riccardo, whose interactions in Riccardo’s apartment cover the first fourteen minutes of the film. Vittoria and Riccardo have one last conversation after what appears to have been a long night of discussion resulting in a breakup. Vittoria moves around the apartment investigating different objects, opening windows, and occasionally speaking with Riccardo. The film constantly frames the characters from a distance, allowing the human bodies to exist in conjunction with their non-human surroundings. Furthermore, non-narrative contents of the apartment are given dramatic weight in this scene — particularly, an electric fan. The sound of the fan plays in the background of this entire scene, sometimes quite loudly to the effect of drawing attention away from Riccardo and Vittoria’s conversations. The wind produced from the fan also appears in many of the shots in this scene, noticeably moving Riccardo’s tie and Vittoria’s hair. In this opening scene, an arbitrary part of Riccardo’s apartment (it has no relation to the film’s narrative) rises to dramatic significance, sometimes over the human characters. This scene extends the reconfiguration of dramatic hierarchies investigated in the opening shot — previous modes of interpreting narratives are rendered inadequate.
The film explores new concepts of the romance narrative through visual techniques, but also through experiments with narrative. The film begins in medias res, taking place after Vittoria and Riccardo decide the future of their relationship — “we in the audience have missed the main drama and come in on the aftermath” (Perez 367). The film starts in the “aftermath” of a narrative — the main course of events seems to have already taken place. Furthermore, there is little reference to the events of pre-filmic time — the characters of L’Eclisse do not have backstories. They instead seem confined to encounter the events of the present — time in L’Eclisse is a “time of the moment” (Perez 370). The film does not refer to extra-narrative existence — rather, the narrative picks up in the present and carries forward. L’Eclisse does not structure itself in relation to the histories of its environments or the memories of its characters. Instead, it presents a time-image disconnected from the narrative valuation of history. The world of L’Eclisse exists on a new timescale, one of the present cut off from the past.
Already, the film has constructed a new narrative sensibility — the traditional structure of the romance narrative has been lost. Alvarez argues that, in Antonioni’s films, “the narrative structure has been deprived of what we previously understood as beginning and end to focus instead on the middle, from which we have to deduce everything” (44). L’Eclisse is not directed from a clear beginning to a clear end. The classical narrative direction which subjugates time to movement in the movement-image is absent and thereby, the film refuses to fall into any previous patterns of narrative. Because of this, it quickly becomes difficult to predict what kinds of interactions the characters will have. By denying classical narrative structure and thereby denying viewers the knowledge of character psychologies, the film denies narrative predictability. No longer can we place events along a time continuum from past to future; we must simply perceive events in L’Eclisse as they occur.
This reorganized time continuum culminates in the film’s famous non-ending. Vittoria and Piero agree to meet up by a construction site in the evening to show dedication to their newly formed relationship, but once Vittoria leaves Piero’s apartment in the morning, the film cuts to show the construction site without either character present. Then, over the course of seven minutes, the camera observes a series of objects around the construction site in close-up. Often in classical cinema, “a temporal goal is wedded to a causal one, and the time becomes charged with cause-effect significance” (Bordwell and Thompson, 386). This type of thinking drives the fabled “happy endings” of classical cinema where the viewer is certain that the end of the film (temporal goal) will bring about happiness, often in the form of a couple united (causal goal). When Piero and Vittoria plan to meet on the street corner near the end of the film, they wed the temporal goal to a causal goal – the film is primed for a happy ending.
Piero and Vittoria do not, of course, meet at their appointed time; this cause-and-effect priming falls flat. Seymour Chatman points out that “Audiences must expect Vittoria and Piero to meet again if their not doing so is to have any shock” (80). Antonioni’s film plays on viewer expectations. The film is aware of the effect of this causal priming and uses it so that when Piero and Vittoria do not meet, the film rejects the cause-and-effect relationship. During this seven minute protagonist-less ending, narrative time stops despite cinematic time continuing. The ending of the film achieves a time-image free from narrative and it is the specific expectations of the structurally-rigorous genre of classical romance that allows for this to happen.
The deconstruction of narrative development in this final scene importantly takes place at the construction site by which Vittoria and Piero had previously established their relationship. John Rhym argues that “the final scene disrupts the linear process of narrative development and refuses retrospective valuation of the space’s association with narrative memory” (481). Before the film’s final scene, the construction site where Vittoria and Piero plan to meet has become a place of memory, imbued with narrative symbolism. The couple has made an insignificant place into a significant one by association with memory — the building becomes important because of the events that take place near it. The final scene, then, acts to erase this association. No longer can the construction site represent the memory of Vittoria and Piero’s relationship — the lasting effect of the final scene is to erase this couple and their relationship from our memories. Time in L’Eclisse refuses narrative subjugation by the memorialization in a place of memory and these memories are forgotten just like the appointed meeting of Vittoria and Piero.
Forgetting and cutting the present off from the past reprises continually in this film, but does not mean the film is entirely ahistorical. With a 1962 release date, the film was made just after the Cuban Missile Crisis in the height of the Cold War. The most explicit reference to this comes in a shot in the film’s final sequence in which an anonymous man exits a bus and holds up the front page of a newspaper which carries the headlines “La Gara Atomica” (Nuclear Arms Race). Importantly, this shot appears in the film’s protagonist-less ending and thus exists for the spectators of the film, but not the protagonists. The film acknowledges the historical influence on the film’s production, but denies its characters the ability to ground their experiences in a historical timeline. The protagonists of a film made partly in response to an afilmic historical event are excluded from this history and subsequently denied the narrative configuration of events that this would provide.
L’Eclisse constructs a world fueled with reinterpretation of classical film logic. With use of editing, framing, and camera movement, the film determines new classical dramatic hierarchies — the human form does not hold overpowering dramatic weight over its environment. The film rejects the clear causal relations of the movement-image and furthermore denies viewer access to character psychologies, specifically the mental states relating to memory and desire. Rather, the world and narrative are alien, something to be perceived and interpreted, but impossible to predict. It abstracts narrative structure, ultimately rendering narrative time inferior to cinematic time, generating a time-image. We can no longer subordinate time in L’Eclisse to narrative memory, which ultimately denies its couple from existing anywhere except for the present. The couple exists outside of history, experiencing the present, but unable to remember.
The time-image represents a distinct structural departure from the narrative rigor of classical cinema. Where narrative subjugates time in classical cinema, time takes on a more central role in modern cinema, often completely abstracted from narrative. Hiroshima mon amour blurs the border between past and present — they seem to coexist at once. Time throws off the reins of narrative structure and denies the film’s protagonists any opportunity to exist with a clear identity in a clear temporal setting. L’Eclisse, on the other hand, refuses to fall in line with previous patterns of narration, creating a romance narrative that stands apart from the past, forcing its characters to encounter the world moment-to-moment. Time, freed from the constraints of causality, intercepts the progression of events in the romance narrative, ultimately denying the formation of the couple for romantic resolution.
Both Hiroshima mon amour and L’Eclisse figure prominently in the creation of the estranged couple, a theme which demonstrates a new relationship between time and narrative brought about by theorization of the time-image. The romance narrative, because of its intrinsic tie to structured time, provides a powerful tool through which the observation of new cinematic trends becomes possible. Romances are both incredibly pervasive narratives (throughout both time and space) and undergo constant transformation with the influx of new ideas. Romances, then, provide a framework by which the film medium can be explored in depth and new theories of film’s fundamental form become apparent. The romances of Hiroshima, mon amour and L’Eclisse fail to reach classical romantic resolution, demonstrating a foregrounding of time over narrative in the new cinema of the time-image.
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