Alain Resnais was born on June 3, 1922, in Brittany, France, the son of a pharmacist. He was an avid reader since childhood, whose range extended from comic books to classics. He became fascinated by films at the age of 10, and received his first camera, a Kodak 8mm, with which he began making short-films.
His frequent visits to Paris motivated him to turn into an actor and in 1939 he moved there to become an assistant at the Théâtre des Mathurins. He studied acting from 1940 to 1942 in the Cours René-Simon, and in 1943, he applied to the film school IDHEC for studying film editing. Resnais decided to join the military service in 1945, which took him to Austria and Germany. He was a temporary member of a travelling theatre company, Les Arlequins, while there. He started making short films in 1946, and in 1948, he got the opportunity to make a film about the paintings of Van Gogh.
The film “Van Gogh” won a prize at the Venice Biennale, and won an Oscar for Best 2-reel Short in 1949. The director continued pursuing artistic subjects in “Guernica” in 1950, which revolved around the Picasso painting based on the 1937 bombing, and “Gauguin”. “Nuit et Brouillard” was one of the first documentaries regarding the Nazi concentration camps, which encountered censorship problems with the French government, but is still considered one of the director's most admired works.
In 1959, Resnais released his first feature film titled “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, which was shown at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, and its success became associated with the uprising movement of the French New Wave. The next film by Resnais titled “L'Année dernière à Marienbad”, attracted great attention and won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In the 1960s, France was deeply divided by the Algerian War and the Manifesto of the 121 was signed by a group of intellectuals and artists which included Alain Resnais.
After 1968, the director's film no longer addressed political issues and his immediate project marked a change of his direction. The science fiction film “Je t'aime, je t'aime” enabled Resnais to present a narration on fragmented time. Resnais made his first English film “Providence” in 1977, which narrated a dark story with humorous fragments, naming this personal genre “a macabre divertissement”.
Alain Resnais firmly believed in not separating between cinema and theatre. He favoured working with theatre cast and crews, and never wanted to film a novel. However, he chose “L'incident”, a novel by Christian Gailly, as the base for “Les Herbes folles”, bringing him out of his philosophy. The film was occasion for a special jury award to Renais at the Cannes Film Festival for his work and exceptional contribution to the history of cinema.
Resnais was associated with a “Left Bank” group of writers, who were distinguished by their interests in politics, documentary and nouveau roman. The director was also a follower of popular culture, owning the largest private collection of comic books in France, and became the co-founder and vice-president of the International Society for Comic Books in 1962. His creative collaboration in his films have been talked about by many critics. He always refused to write his own screenplays and showed immense importance to his screenwriters. The two noteworthy principal themes associated with Resnais's work are time and memory. His career saw a progressive shift from a realistic setting such as political themes to themes that are more playful and personal. His central focus in films revolved around experimenting with narrative forms.
Alain Resnais passed away on March 1, 2014, in Paris.