“Life is a selfish act”
Seul Contre Tous is a sequel of sorts to director Gaspar Noe’s short film Carne. Like most of Noe’s work this is one grim & disturbing movie. While it isn’t as brutal as Irreversible it still packs one hell of a punch & is certainly not a film for everybody.
At the beginning of the movie there is a montage complete with a voiceover narration of the early life of The Butcher (Phillipe Nahon) Orphaned at a young age & abused by a priest he ends up running his own butcher shop. He marries & has an autistic daughter which causes his wife to leave him. He raises his daughter, fighting incestuous feelings for her. One day his daughter experiences her first period & the butcher sees the blood on her skirt. Thinking she has been raped he stabs a young man & is sent to prison. His shop is sold to a muslim businessman. While in prison he has a sexual relationship with one of the other inmates, but once released he vows to forget the incident & rebuild some sort of life. He gets a job in the bar he used to drink in & is seduced by the owner, who becomes pregnant. She moves with the butcher to northern France promising to buy him his own butcher’s shop. The shop is never bought & the butcher begins to hate his life with his partner culminating in the butcher viciously attacking her, repeatedly punching the pregnant woman in the stomach. He then takes a pistol & leaves, heading back to Paris. He rents the same room his daughter was conceived in but his life continues to spiral downwards until he decides to go & see his daughter.
This is one hell of a grim movie. In some ways thematically similar to Taxi Driver, Seul Contre Tous is a more personal journey into depression & mental illness. The butcher is a repulsive character, a misogynist, a racist & a homophobe. He truly is sobering reminder of just what some human beings are & are capable of. Phillipe Nahon is superb as the butcher. His performance is outstanding. He captures perfectly the utter hopelessness of a man on the very bottom of society, at war with his demons & a ticking timebomb of violence. if there was any justice Nahon would have won an Oscar for his performance but there isn’t a chance in hell the Academy Board would even recognise a film like this. Gaspar Noe frames the movie perfectly, from disturbing voiceovers by Nahon to juddering images & sounds as the movie builds up a horrific air of unease & impeding violence before the film reaches it’s climax, The movies ending is brutal & extremely disturbing, just before the climax the screen goes red with a warning that counts down 30 seconds to the film’s climax allowing anyone already shocked to avoid the ending. Yes it is a little clichéd but in most respects it works. I obviously cannot give away the ending but it makes very uncomfortable viewing. Noe followed this movie with the incredible brutal masterpiece that is Irreversible, beginning that movie with a cameo by Nahon as the butcher.
Seul Contre Tous is not a movie for everyone, it is deeply shocking & affecting & should only be viewed by those who can handle extreme cinema. For those that can this is a powerful piece of disturbing & nihilistic cinema.