Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour and Helma Sanders-Brahms’ Deutschland bleiche Mutter speak to us from the ruins, inhabiting a condition of absolute destruction and placing us at an epistemological “ground zero.” The two films form part of a transnational dialogue that cuts across the boundaries of national cinema and language. Though they may appear, on the surface, to have little in common—they were made over twenty years apart (1959 and 1980, respectively) in different countries and at very different moments in the history of cinema—they share an important preoccupation, which invites consideration of them together. They both take as their central project the dissolution of epistemological categories, the very demarcations and boundaries that would appear, so undeniably, to relegate them to entirely different historical periods and to different national and linguistic fields. Both perform an operation of archeology, excavating—decades later—the epicenter, both literal and symbolic, of destruction; they turn over the scattered rubble, exposing its unweathered surfaces and returning us to the scene of crisis.
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