International Salon-Journal (ISSN 1466-4615)

Vol. 9 No. 38, July 2005







Reni Celeste


Love and Catastrophe:

Filming the Sublime in _Hiroshima Mon Amour_ [1]



This essay studies two scenes from Alain Resnais's film _Hirsoshima Mon Amour_ (1959) alongside the concept of the sublime in order to take film from a discussion of desire to one of love. Love is understood, according to philosopher Emmanuel Levinas's description, as an infinite alterity, rather than as totality or unity. Though Levinas insists on a separation between love and tragedy, and argues that the work of art cannot achieve the ethical, I argue that Resnais's film expresses a sublime achievement by staging, or representing, the infinite tragically through failure and betrayal.





*Desire* is no small word in narrative film theory. Besides being the engine of the popular film plot, it has been modern film theory's deepest obsession. Is it possible to move from a discourse of *desire* to one of *love*? A discourse of desire understands the film screen as corresponding to deep psychoanalytic structures of the desiring spectator. Desire in psychoanalysis locates a fundamental lack established in infantile experience (Freud) and language (Lacan), and posits the film screen as a potential site of resolution. Love, as I will define it, corresponds to the quest towards an infinite difference. To understand the cinema according to love is to attempt to enframe the infinite. Can the film screen make this transition from desire to love -- is the infinite something that can *appear*? The question of the sublime posed by Kant bears a similarity: can reason surpass the limits of the human faculties when one encounters what is beyond representation? I will employ Kant's concept of the sublime alongside two scenes of loss and retrieval in Alain Resnais's _Hiroshima Mon Amour_ (1959), to argue that film can present the unpresentable and achieve love.


The Platonic version of love traditionally has been understood as a quest for the universal, the same, or the one. Love is classically depicted in terms of identity-desire strives to transform difference into unity. Emmanuel Levinas proposes a challenge to this regime that also represents a challenge to the traditional understanding of philosophy or metaphysics. As he writes in _Time and the Other_, 'I have precisely wanted to contest the idea that the relationship with the other is fusion. The relationship with the Other is the absence of the other; not absence pure and simple, not the absence of pure nothingness, but absence in a horizon of the future, an absence that is time'. [2] For Levinas love is infinity rather than totality. Levinas opposes to this ethical infinity of the Other, the realm of representation, or art. In order to undermine the equivalence in deconstruction between being and image that ultimately destabilized all ethical and truth claims, Levinas insisted in his early writings on a strict division between art and ethics. Art is incapable of the infinite because it is ultimately without time, and can deliver no future. In his essay 'Reality and its Shadow', he described art in terms of tragedy a frozen nightmare of repetition that he referred to as *l'entre temps*, or the meanwhile. 'Every art work is in the end, a statue-a stoppage of time'. [3] He includes cinema, theater, music and the so-called time-based arts. To achieve love is to break out of the province of tragedy and the work of art. This description of both art and love implies a critical separation between two concepts that have been historically intertwined: tragedy and love.


I will write in accordance with Levinas's understanding of philosophy and love as well as his conviction that love exceeds the frame of representation, desire and exchange. I also understand love to be the single most important achievement for Being and agree that the ethical is deeply bound to love as difference. What distinguishes my position from Levinas's is that I insist on the classic inseparability of love and tragedy. I will argue that, despite his refusal, representation is capable of love as he has defined it. In order to do this I will make recourse to the sublime, a concept that emerged in Enlightenment aesthetics and has since revealed itself to indicate the ultimate challenge to reason -- a challenge that despite Kant's insistence on nature, was ultimately waged in the work of art. I will make my case for film in two steps. First I will give an explanation of the sublime and consider why it has become such an important concept for postmodern philosophy. Next I will argue through an analysis of _Hiroshima Mon Amour_ that tragic film achieves the sublime by enframing the experience of the infinite -- in this case love and catastrophe.



The Return of the Sublime


The sublime, alongside tragedy, is one of the most important concepts pertaining to the relation of art and thought. The significance of the concept of the sublime for philosophy can be traced to Kant's third _Critique_, where along with beauty it served the role of bridging theoretical and practical reason. Kant describes the sublime as an experience of astonishment, first noted by Edmund Burke, whereby pleasure and pain are experienced simultaneously when confronted with grand and excessive displays of nature. Though Kant did not speak of tragedy, this structure in which success and nobility is asserted through failure is analogous to the structure of tragedy. Not only is the sublime a tragic structure, but also tragedy is a sublime experience. Tragedy has been described by Friedrich Schelling as the drama, or the staging, of the sublime experience. [4]


The sublime however is not a mere psychological experience. Though Kant considered his discovery secondary to the concept of beauty because it described an experience rather than something that could be said of the object itself, Kant noted that we can attribute two kinds of agitation generated by the sublime to the object itself, and 'hence present the object as sublime in these two ways'. [5] These two forms of agitation are the *mathematical* and *dynamical*. This extends the sublime from being a merely subjectivist phenomenon to being *transcendental* in the Kantian sense.


The first component of the sublime, the mathematical, is concerned with size, or as Kant describes it, that which is absolutely large, where *absolute* refers to what is large beyond comparison. Thus Kant concludes, 'Nothing that can be called an object of the senses is to be called sublime'. [6] Imagination is our power to estimate the magnitude of things in the world of sense, yet when it strives to embrace this absolute largeness it comes upon its limitations and fails because absolute largeness is not a magnitude but a boundlessness. This failure causes the sensation of displeasure, but the situation also simultaneously ushers in reason, in the form of the awareness that our ability to think this infinite as a whole points to our possession of a supersensible power, and this superiority of reason is experienced as pleasure. Paradoxically this ability of the mind to apprehend the unlimited as totality is only brought to awareness aesthetically as the experience of an inability. The pleasure of the sublime is only possible by means of displeasure and failure.


The second component of the sublime is the *dynamical*, or what Kant sometimes refers to simply as *might*. An object of nature generates the experience of the dynamically sublime when it reveals a might that has no dominance over us. [7] The deep gorges, raging streams and massive mountains instill a terror and amazement in us, but if we judge from a safe place we are not actually afraid or cowering before a dominant power. Once again Kant argues that our fear in the face of unbounded nature actually provokes our sense of superiority and independence to nature, and thus our strength before it. The might of nature in comparison to our fragile being makes us recognize our physical impotence and vulnerability, but at the same time it reveals an ability we possess to judge ourselves apart from nature. To take the astonishing immensity and force of nature as an object of our mind is to reveal our minds as larger and greater. As Kant says, 'Hence nature is here called sublime merely because it elevates our imagination, [making] it exhibit those cases where the mind can come to feel its own sublimity, which lies in its vocation and elevates it even above nature'. [8]


Kant's isolation of the sublime to *nature* is essential to the larger goals at stake for him in this concept. His insistence on the superiority of the mind over nature, and of the superiority of reason over imagination, cannot be fully understood without reference to the relation of the sublime to moral feelings. For Kant the mind has a purpose that transcends nature, and that purpose is the apprehension of the supersensible as the grounds for moral judgments. This discussion is taken up in 'S29 On the Modality of a Judgment about the Sublime in Nature'. [9] Insofar as the analytic of the sublime concerns itself with the relationship between reason and sensibility, it stands at the junction between metaphysics and skepticism and calls forth the question not only of the possibility of knowledge but also the limits of reason. Recent interest in the sublime indicates that in the midst of postmodern skepticism and the death sentence waged on metaphysics by almost all major philosophies in the past century, that the question of surpassing ultimate limits has once again become critical. [10]


The most influential rereading of the sublime may be Lyotard's, because he understands it to exemplify the postmodern problematic. Lyotard discussed the sublime in his earlier work _The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge_, where he argued that modern art found its impetus 'in the aesthetic of the sublime'. [11] He distinguished in this text modern art from postmodern art in terms of their various responses to the possibility of presentation. Modern aesthetics 'allows the unpresentable to be put forward only as the missing contents', whereas the postmodern aesthetic 'puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself'. [12] Both modern and postmodern art revolve around the problem posed by the sublime -- how can art present the unpresentable? Lyotard and others have found in the Kantian conception of the sublime the fissure of modern thought, uncovering the very condition of 20th century thought -- an obsession with the limits of knowledge. Though postmodern interpretations of the sublime see it as the very limit of reason, rather than as victory, in the notion of the sublime Kant did not uncover, as be believed, a mere appendix to beauty but the most rigorous and astonishing feature of philosophy itself -- the aporia, a point of infinite possibilities, to which we can return repeatedly without resolution.


In both the sublime and the tragic, contradiction and negative presentation are invoked as an aesthetic form of truth that stands superior to logic and inseparable from the ethical. Human dignity and nobility only reaches its full height in the failure of the system, because through the realization (reason) of this failure a larger victory is asserted negatively, that of the hegemony of reason. When Friedrich Schelling asks how the Greeks were able to bear the contradictions of their tragedy, he finds his answer in the idea of tragedy as supreme justice. The Greek hero is condemned to play out the struggle between the opposing equalities of freedom and necessity, and to assert the hegemony of freedom through its very loss. For Schelling drama is the highest art because of its sublime achievement. [13] _Hiroshima Mon Amour presents_ a modern case.



_Hiroshima Mon Amour_


_Hiroshima Mon Amour_ is a film that proclaims that history will not be possessed, and then proceeds to reflect the shadow of historical truth through the confession of this limitation in narrative cinema. Commissioned to do a documentary film on Hiroshima, Alain Resnais instead made a feature-length drama that questions the very possibility of documenting history. If classical aesthetics in the German idealist tradition situates the question of art within a philosophy of identity, here the same paradoxes are marked within a philosophy of difference. Can the frame *present* what lies beyond the realm of the sensible: love, catastrophe, and historical truth. Can a film image be considered a *presentation*? How film presents absence is the broader question of _Hiroshima Mon Amour_.


In his biography of Alain Resnais, James Monaco describes the film this way: '_Hiroshima Mon Amour_ is two films, often working against each other'. [14] It is this point of strife that gives the film its metaphysical and erotic tension. The film takes as its center the question of love and catastrophe, contact and disruption, the play of opposites touching and recoiling, but it does so in a manner in which opposing forces are not conflated upon one another in equivalence, or reconciled and unified. For example, it consists of a dialogue between two nameless lovers, one French and one Japanese; it is set between two cities in two nations; it involves two sets of lovers existing in two different moments of time; it questions the distinction and commingling of fact and fiction; and it brings into friction the image and the word, the horrible and the beautiful. In this film love and catastrophe are shown to coexist, but in a relation of perpetual strife that refuses totality.


The plot of this film is fairly simple. A French actress has an adulterous affair with a Japanese man while filming a peace documentary on Hiroshima on location. The affair regenerates a memory of a lost German lover from her youth in an occupied France. The film thematizes the problem of *telling* or presentation across all levels of articulation, image, music and text, through the figure of betrayal. The first manner in which these themes become cinematic is in the structure of the film's temporality. The temporality of this film is both brief and vast. On the one hand the film transpires within the claustrophobic confines of an adulterous love affair that lasts less than two days; and on the other it takes up the vast territory of history and memory as it struggles to revive lost episodes of trauma and loss from the war thirteen years before. That the latter is filtered through the confines of the former sets the stage of recollection as a prison. The adulterous affair exists as a space without space. Its illegitimacy relegates it to the realm of secrecy and transgression. From this position, a desire that refuses fulfillment, it stands in for love. And from this void ironically emerges the portal through which the past (truth) may be reanimated as fiction (lies) within the limited confines of a screen.


Despite remaining nameless the French actress and the Japanese architect will be both distinctly developed characters and universals. He tells her she reminds him of every woman, and she asks if he is entirely Japanese. She confides that adultery is nothing new for her, that she has a weakness for men. She is comfortable with lies, but has no reason to lie to him. She can be at both times completely honest and dishonest. She feeds on reinvention, recreation, fiction, and yet is tormented by a desire for truth. Foremost she seeks freedom, and finds it only through secrets. No one has all the pieces to her and so she is not possessed. This is her greatest loneliness and her greatest freedom. This stranger will be the only one to whom she has ever spoken the story of her dead German lover. The architect on the other hand is a realist, a man who builds and occupies structures. Just as the film focuses during the prelude on the architectonic in its portrayal of urban construction and reconstruction, he too will open up the dichotomy between structure and history, position and its absence.


Through its manipulation of time and space this film seeks to create a space of disclosure. This requires that the ineffable be given a position. This position that denies position must in some sense always come as a betrayal. This film acknowledges itself as this betrayal and in so doing redeems itself. I would like to reveal this betrayal by focusing on two scenes of radical loss -- the 15-minute prelude, which tries to reanimate the catastrophe of Hiroshima, and the flashback of the German soldier, in which the French actress tries to reanimate her lost love.



The Prelude


From the first shot the image is marked by an unsettling ambiguity. A piano plays, the screen is dark, and slowly light emerges, revealing glistening flesh, body parts moving in time with melancholic piano notes. The image provokes the viewer to draw closer, to struggle against confusion, to make out in the darkness what is too dim and unclear to understand. Is the flesh loving or is it dying? Are these the limbs of lovers entwined, and the sweat of sex, or is it the final movements of a dying, damaged body? The film's title asserts the only evidence one has to comprehend the image -- the words *Hiroshima* and *Mon Amour* -- each seemingly signifying in different directions. These bodies are not given faces until 15 minutes into the film, but even when they will be clearly identified as lovers, they will go unnamed throughout the film, and despite the film's probing into their histories, she will simply be the French actress, and he the Japanese architect.


Overlaying this opening image is the commencement of the dialogue between the lovers that bears resemblance to an incantation or musical exchange. The voices loom over the images; the male asserting total negation, the female total affirmation. The sense of the entire dialogue is already encapsulated in their opening lines:


'HE. You saw nothing in Hiroshima.'


'SHE. I saw *everything*. Everything'. [15]


Her claim to total presence is negated not only by his repeated denial of everything she affirms, but also by the shots that accompany her claims -- public spaces, architecture, the hospital, the museum, artifacts, photographs, and newsreels. What we see are images of a city reconstructed and obsessed with its lost history: children gazing at miniature reproductions of the city, artifacts behind glass in museum boxes (twisted iron, bicycle wheel, hair from the heads of anonymous women), and dramatized newsreels of the trauma following the explosion. While she seeks and speaks of actuality, the visuals show only mediation and loss. Gradually a relation other than strict opposition is brought to bear upon *everything* and *nothing*. The sensible trace is everything, all there is, and yet it indicates a lack, a nothing. Thus the lovers speak the same thing from opposing positions. As singular assertions the claims bear no truth, becoming merely opposing metaphysical poles. It is the toccata and fugue of their dialogue that gives them their weight as aesthetic truth claims.


The woman repeatedly relies upon official history to bolster her case. Beyond the museum reconstructions there is the memory of the media documentation in process, of being witness to the making of history through newsreels. She insists, if not upon the credibility of the newsreel, at least upon the phenomenology of having seen the newsreels. Her voice becomes more urgent, and the images move frantically as well. The image track shows actual newsreels taken after August 6, 1945, crosscut with shots of the lovers in shadow.


'SHE. I saw the newsreels. On the second day, History tells, I'm not making it up, on the second day certain species of animals rose again from the depths of the earth and from the ashes.

Dogs were photographed for all eternity.

I saw them.

I *saw* the newsreels.

I *saw* them.

On the first day.

On the second day.

On the third day.' [16]


The progression of days passing, each documented and archived for its developments and departure from the previous images, attests to a history, a linear mode of narrative captured for all eternity. But he interrupts:


'HE. You saw nothing. Nothing.' [17]


Next we have the beginnings of the theme that brings the oppositions of the horrible and the beautiful into an uneasy alliance. As she speaks of beautiful flowers we see images of children, of gaping wounds being probed with instruments, burns, fingers missing, an eye being extracted.


'SHE. . . . on the fifteenth day too.

Hiroshima was blanketed with flowers. There were cornflowers and gladiolas everywhere, and morning glories and day lilies that rose again from the ashes with an extraordinary vigor, quite unheard of for flowers till then.

I didn't make anything up.'


'HE. You made it *all* up.'


'SHE. *Nothing*.

Just as in love this illusion exists, this illusion of being able never to forget, so I was under the illusion that I would never forget Hiroshima.

Just as in love.' [18]


The play in the texts between *all* and *nothing* leads into the first reference to love, which is presented through analogy. Love begins to be linked to catastrophe, and memory to illusion. It is here that the case she has made thus far to the preservation and possession of events begins to open onto its opposite and expose the wound opened by love and catastrophe.


The film now expands from the private sufferings of individuals to the city as social phenomenon. Individuals will be destroyed, lives will be radically transformed, but *it* goes on. The city is shown now as an angry force and these larger public structures exhibit all the same torments as the private sphere. Newsreels show demonstrations, mass burials of food, conflict, and public speeches, but these visuals exist without narration, orchestrated only by the film music, as if to contest the classic documentary belief in the narrator's omniscience and ability to control the meaning of images. Unity and dispersement are shown to transpire on a variety of scales, connecting the private and the public, personal history and global history, the life of the person and the metropolis. These oppositions are not represented in an effort to assert a hierarchy, wherein one is diminished and the other heralded as the greater value, but to show their inseparability, and mutual entanglement.


This entire prelude can be seen as an overlaying of desire and death upon the outline of the urban landscape, but the final moments conclude and highlight this project. The dialogue dissolves into a monologue of desire by the French actress accompanied by a monotonous, hypnotic tracking shot where the camera flows steadily down the city streets, across bridges, along train tracks. Her utterances and the visual movement resemble the moments of deep passion moving toward sexual climax, but we see no lovers, just streets, onlookers, details, bicyclists, things being passed as if seen from handlebars of a bicycle. These images are haunted, appearing as if they had already been lost, or as if they were being remembered from deep within a dream. As we see these lost images passing rhythmically by, we hear her disembodied monologue addressing the lover.


'SHE. . . . I meet you.

I remember you.

Who are you?

You're so good for me.

How could I have known that this city was made to the size of love?

How could I have known that you were made to size of my body?

You're great. How wonderful. You're great.

How slow all of a sudden.

And how sweet.

More than you can know.

You destroy me.

You're so good for me.

Plenty of time.


Take me. Deform me, make me ugly.

Why not you?

Why not you in this city and in this night so like the others you can't tell the difference? Please . . .'. [19]


It is here that the impulses of desire are most explicitly linked to fatality and destruction. The Other is a phantasm that both redeems and destroys. It is the otherness of the lover that is coveted, but the goal of desire would be to appropriate that otherness, make it sameness, and absolve the radical threat to individuation. Ecstasy is shown to be the process of resisting, succumbing, and being deformed and transfigured in the embrace of the Other. To achieve love is in some way to interrupt the ambition of desire and embrace the ecstatic.



The Betrayal of Love


There has been much discussion regarding the transference that takes place in this film between the recounted love affair with the German soldier during the war and the love affair in the present with the Japanese architect. But rather than consider the complex psychological dynamics revealed in this act of recovery, I would like to look at how these two adulterous lovers come to signify the larger betrayal that functions in the filmic presentation of history.


Firstly, the situation that commences the attempt at historical retrieval is adultery. The encounter between the French actress and the Japanese architect is secretive and discontinuous. It is a closed intimacy that does not extend outside their dialogue and this brief moment in time. It is as if they speak to themselves, into a closed box, or to the already dead. This setting highlights something essential about the community of two more universally. The language of lovers bears a certain exclusivity. The adulterous love is born within an even stricter secrecy, it was not intended to travel or be passed on. Each will carry its memory as a kind of loneliness and longing, just as she has carried her dead German lover as her deepest loneliness up to this point of confession, where she turns him into story and in doing so betrays him. To tell their secret, even within another secret, is to reduce it to language and representation.


The affair with the German soldier during the German occupation of France was also by circumstance a deep social transgression held quiet between the lovers. Their encounters were hidden. We see them riding bicycles through desolate countryside.


'SHE. At first we met in barns. Then among the ruins. And then in rooms. Like anywhere else.' [20]


Love is described as a secret place; one that opens up within solitude. It is the attempt to share a place that really permits of no communion, and the promise implicit in this effort is that this secret community not be turned into public rhetoric or universalized. Whether one loves alone or one's love is returned amounts to the same torment, the same loneliness, and the same impossibility. After her confession/betrayal we see the French actress battling with her solitude, entering her hotel, uncomfortable, at first unable to face herself and exiting the room, retracing her steps, then re-entering and finally coming to terms with the room. She goes to the sink to wash her face, as if seeking absolution, and looks into the mirror. What follows is a combination of speech and interior monologue.


'SHE. You think you know. And then, no. You don't.

In Nevers she had a German love when she was young . . .

We'll go to Bavaria, my love, and there we'll marry.

She never went to Bavaria. (*Looking at herself in the mirror*.)

I dare those who have never gone to Bavaria to speak to her of love.

You were not yet quite dead.

I told our story.

I betrayed you tonight with this stranger.

I told our story.

It was, you see, a story that could be told.

For fourteen years I hadn't found . . . the taste of an impossible love again.

Since Nevers.

Look how I'm forgetting you . . .

Look how I've forgotten you.

Look at me.' [21]


This is a disturbing and complicated shot. She takes herself as an object in the third person while looking at her reflection in a mirror, and she addresses her deceased lover directly from an interior voice. There is in this monologue an *I*, a *her*, a *you*, and a *we*. She asks the dead to take her as an object, to look at her, and to see on her exterior the signs of the betrayal. As if oblivion, forgetfulness could be seen, as if the dead were capable of redeeming. Here she is neither herself nor another. Even solitude is divided and she herself cannot be one. She has found another impossible love, not because her love for the Japanese architect will go unfulfilled due to circumstances, but because the ambition of desire (to share one's solitude, to possess the other, to overcome individuation) is an impossible one. Love itself has thwarted desire. The object of love is destined to slip away and be lost to her. The only way she can remember him, or retain him, is by displacing him with others.


When she recounts the public recrimination following the death of her soldier she is unmoved by shame, by her family's dishonor, by her shaved head. She can think of only one thing -- his absence, his eternal absence, that her life continues, and his death continues, and that this border will never be breached. This otherness, this slipping away of the Other, is love itself. She waits and counts time in her cellar while he lays timeless in the grave. The encroaching oblivion of their encounter is hers alone to resist.


In the cellar she screams out to her dead lover, but she knows she is already losing him because she now possesses only a name.


'SHE. Your German name. Only your name. I only have one memory left, your name.' [22]


The proper name here is divested of all its weight. It is just a name. A word. A signifier. Like the anonymity of the *she* and the *he*, and the movement of the film away from being simply a public discourse on Hiroshima (like the peace film and the demonstration within the film), there is here an attempt to get beyond language and traces. She follows this ambition for a real, viable memory through pain and blood, scratching her hands and fingernails against the rock walls of the cellar until they bleed, then licking off the blood. Pain holds you riveted to a spot and may even mark the body with a visible scar. It contests forgetfulness.


The Japanese architect understands that his task is to stand in for the German lover, to revive him, and thus to ensure his own survival. He pries from the French actress her lost memories and she gives her secrets. He will be the only one who knows her story and this shared secret will be their bond. The retrieval of this fading story of love resembles the film itself in its ability to represent at both times a betrayal and redemption. In forgetting, one remembers. For example, he says to her in one of their final meetings,


'HE. In a few years, when I'll have forgotten you, and when other such adventures, from sheer habit, will happen to me, I'll remember you as the symbol of love's forgetfulness. I'll think of this adventure as the horror of oblivion. I already know it'. [23]


So, to have made the lost German lover into a story is to have betrayed him, to have made him into discourse and turned intimacy into mere narrative, but in so far as one presents the narrative as failure, just as in the sublime, there is a gain through the realization of loss. She will become nameless and forgotten a few years from now, but she will be remembered as 'the symbol of love's forgetfulness'. Likewise, Resnais's work, _Hiroshima Mon Amour_, serves as the symbol of loves forgetfulness, an in doing so indirectly achieves love.


Kant argues that reason remains victorious through its ability to recognize its limits in the sublime. Postmodern accounts have found in the sublime the fissure of reason that deems its exercise a failure and renders it tragic. If we understand Love as Levinas does, it is this very inability to possess the other that makes love the ultimate achievement of Being. He says in _Time and the Other_,


'Can this relationship with the other through Eros be considered as a failure? Once again the answer is yes, if one adopts the terminology of current descriptions, if one wants to characterize the erotic with 'grasping', 'possessing', or 'knowing'. But there is nothing of all this, or the failure of all this, in eros'. [24]


Both Nietzsche and Levinas strove to rewrite philosophy. One through tragedy and one through love. Levinas's thoughts on love reveal an opposition to a philosophy that defines itself through desire's quest for totality, authority, and power. Instead he describes philosophy as the pursuit of Love, a transcendence that is 'otherwise than being' and can be described best in terms of the future, the mystery to come. Though Levinas excluded tragedy from this future, I have argued for its inclusion. To bring together tragedy and love is to grant the work of art a sublime capability -- the achievement of love.


Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut, USA



Reni Celeste (1964-2004) completed her first book _The Tragic Screen: Cinema At The Limits Of Philosophy_ in 2003. Her second book, _Action-Speed-Metropolis_, explores the origins and limits of the field through the figure of action cinema and industrial modernism. It looks at cinema both at its origin and its contemporary convergences, in order to understand how new forms of communication had inspired a global revision of culture experience and the study of film.





1. This article first appeared in _Studies in French Cinema_, vol. 3 no. 3, 2003 <>. It is reproduced here with the permission of the editors.


2. Levinas, _Time and the Other_, p. 90.


3. Levinas, 'Reality and its Shadow', p. 137.


4. See Schelling, _The Philosophy of Art_.


5. Kant, _The Critique of Judgment_, p. 100.


6. Ibid., p. 106.


7. Ibid., p. 119.


8. Ibid., p. 121.


9. Ibid., pp. 124-140.


10. The sublime is the subject of no less than thee recent titles: Crowther's _The Kantian Sublime_ (1989), Makkreel's _Imagination and Interpretation in Kant_ (1990), and Lyotard's _Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime_ (1991).


11. Lyotard, _The Postmodern Condition_, p. 77.


12. Ibid., p. 81.


13. Schelling, _The Philosophy of Art_, pp. 247 and 253.


14. Monaco, _Alain Resnais_, p. 49.


15. Duras, _Hiroshima Mon Amour_, p. 15


16. Ibid., p. 18.


17. Ibid.


18. Ibid., p. 19.


19. Ibid., p. 25


20. Ibid., p. 48.


21. Ibid., p. 73.


22. Ibid., p. 57.


23. Ibid., p. 68.


24. Levinas, _Time and the Other_, p. 90.





Paul Crowther, _The Kantian Sublime: From Morality to Art_ (Oxford University Press, 1989).


Marguerite Duras, _Hiroshima Mon Amour_ (New York: Grove Press, 1961).


Immanuel Kant, _The Critique of Judgment_, trans. Werner Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Press, 1987).


Emmanuel Levinas, _Time and the Other_, trans. Richard A. Cohen (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1987).

--- 'Reality and its Shadow', in Sean Hand, ed., _The Levinas Reader_ (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1989).


Jean-Francois Lyotard, _The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge_, trans. Geoff Bennington (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).

--- _Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime_, trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991).


Rudolf A. Makkreel, _Imagination and Interpretation in Kant: The Hermeneutical Import of the Critique of Judgment_ (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1990).


James Monaco, _Alain Resnais_ (New York: Oxford Press, 1979).


Jean-Luc Nancy, _Of the Sublime: Presence in Question_, ed. Jeffery Librett (Albany: Suny Press, 1993).


Friedrich Nietzsche, _The Birth of Tragedy_, trans. Ronald Spiers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).


Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, _The Philosophy of Art_, ed. and trans. Douglas W. Stott (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1989).



Copyright Intellect Ltd 2003



Reni Celeste, 'Love and Catastrophe: Filming the Sublime in _Hiroshima Mon Amour_', _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 9 no. 38, July 2005 <>.











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