There is a department store called Sogo in Hiroshima where I stop sometimes for tea. From the tearoom, I can see the road from the bank to the drill ground where we escaped. I see old people walking happily down the street. Young people holding hands and enjoying each other’s conversation. Children holding their parents’ hands and looking happy. And I think about those awful scenes that I experienced many years ago now and all the people that lost their lives… I think to myself, ‘What was all that? Did it really happen?
The words of Hiroshima survivor, Akiko Takakura, who had been just 300m from the hypocenter at the time of the atomic bombing, articulate precisely the themes at the heart of Palmer’s, Hiroshima. A study of the landscape of the city, Hiroshima presents it as a thriving and verdant place, the very antithesis of the images of the destruction caused by the atomic bombing of August 6th 1945 that still dominate perceptions of the city. The film is structured entirely from static shots that take in the broad topography of the city, limiting its scope to the city delta and surrounding foothills – the areas devastated by the bomb. Signs of the city’s defining tragedy, though, are noticeably absent and yet the conspicuous absence of the tragedy serves to make its presence felt all the more.
The film visualises the tormented narrative identified by Akiko Takakura, above; that is, the delicate dichotomy of remembering and forgetting in which the city is entangled. Hiroshima is a form of visual and sonic echo, where the constant unfolding time – the everyday – may be abruptly and devastatingly brought to an end: catastrophe by stealth. As an installation the film immerses the viewer in an experiential space, one which is tied to the film’s acute recreation of an atmospheric ‘ground’ redolent of the city as it was on August 6th 1945: a city on the brink of catastrophe, flooded with light, the inescapable drone of cicadas, the same calm sky (a prerequisite for the bombing run) that sealed the city’s fate.