“Time destroys everything”
Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible is one of the most harrowing & brutal films ever made. It is also an intelligent & thought-provoking piece of movie making. Certainly not a film for everyone, but one that will stay with you long after the movie has finished. Irreversible is, at heart part of the rape/revenge genre, but is told with a backward narrative forcing the viewer to first confront the bloody vengeance, then to witness the assault & then to finally understand just who these people were.
Irreversible opens with a short cameo by Phillipe Nahon, reprising his role of “the butcher” from Seul Contre Tous. The scene then moves to the outside of a gay club called The Rectum, where Marcus (Vincent Cassel) is brought out on a stretcher & Pierre (Albert Dupontel) is led out by the police under arrest. The movie then jumps backwards along the timeline as Marcus & Pierre enter the club, in Marcus’ case fueled with a violent retributive rage, looking for a man called La Tenia ( the tapeworm) The pair move deeper into the club until there is a confrontation with the person Marcus believes is La Tenia. Marcus has his arm broken in the ensuing fight & is pinned to the floor & about to be sodomised when Pierre steps in. What follows is an incredibly brutal scene where the guy’s face is repeatedly bludgeoned by Pierre with a fire extinguisher in unflinching detail. The film again jumps backwards & we are introduced to the character of Alex (Monica Bellucci) who has been badly beaten & is being taken on a stretcher into an ambulance. While Pierre seems to be in a state of shock & numbness, Marcus is full of rage & convinces Pierre to follow him in seeking retribution. As the film again shifts backwards along the timeline the viewer discovers just what happened to Alex.
Upon leaving a party Alex takes an underpass to cross the road, it is in this tunnel she comes face to face with La Tenia, who is arguing violently with another woman. Once La Tenia notices Alex, he leaves the other woman & pins Alex to the wall of the subway at knifepoint. He the forces Alex to the floor & brutally anally rapes her in one of the most repulsive scenes ever committed to film. Once the sexual assault is over, La Tenia viciously beats Alex on the floor of the subway. As the narrative moves backwards again, we find out that Alex left the party alone after an argument with Marcus. We also learn that before Marcus, Pierre & Alex were lovers. In the final two scenes we first see Alex & Marcus as a loving couple, having just found out Alex is pregnant. The final scene shows Alex in a park reading, content & happy
With Irreversible Gaspar Noe sets his movie out to shock, disorientate & disturb. The opening credits are very reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange & once Marcus & Pierre are in the club, Noe keeps the camera swirling around, disorienting the viewer. The soundtrack in the first half of the movie is pitched at a low-frequency to aid the feeling of unease. Irreversible is infamous for two scenes. The fire extinguisher bludgeon & the rape. The fire extinguisher scene, while very graphic, isn’t as shocking as some would have you believe. The rape, on the other hand is truly repulsive & incredibly hard to watch. But that is how rape should be portrayed. It should elicit feelings of nausea & repulsion. Rape is one of the most vile & repugnant acts & should be portrayed as such. Not like some movies (Baise Moi) do & sexualise the assault for the gratification of the viewer. It is here that Noe confronts his viewer. He locks the camera down static just in front of the assault, at ground level. The camera remains static throughout the assault, neither zooming or panning out. Making the viewer almost a complicit witness to the crime. The first time I saw this film at the cinema about a third of the audience got up & left during this scene. It is designed to confront, to shock, but it is also there to make you think. Irreversible is about the violence in all of us. After all the act of violent revenge is carried out, not by the aggressive Marcus, but by the quiet & passive Pierre. Who will have to live with the consequences of his actions. As will they all. In one moment, one-act of violence these people’s lives are forever changed. What’s happened is Irreversible.
A truly shocking & powerful movie, that once seen, cannot be unseen & will live with you for a long time after. A nihilistic look at violence & its effects (the guy killed in the gay club is NOT La Tenia, he can be seen at in the left side of the frame during the argument smiling) This is a movie I highly recommend but only for those who can stomach extreme violence & brutality.