The Butcher (Phillipe Nahon) narrates his life story over the opening scene: He worked his way to buying his own shop, got married, had a daughter, his wife died, he assaulted a man he mistakenly believed to have abused her, was sent to jail for the assault, his daughter was sent to an institution, he lost his business and home, when he got of jail he went to work in a bar, he had an affair with the owner, she got pregnant, they leave Paris and move with her mother to Lille… His monologue is delivered in a monotone; he’s at a low ebb and about to sink lower.
The Butcher, we only ever know him as such, is an unhappy man, he’s unfulfilled and mentally disturbed. Those around him either can’t see this or can and don’t care. As he tries to get a job he’s thwarted and subsequently berated again by his controlling wife. She’s the one who has the money as she keeps reminding him. He gets a job as a nightwatchman at a retirement home where one night he witnesses the death of a patient. Rather than go straight home after his shift he wanders around, visiting a porno theatre and bar before eventually going home to be accused of infidelity by his wife. His humiliation reaches boiling point and he assaults her, beating her pregnant body. He takes his mother in laws gun and returns to Paris where he believes he’ll find peace, happiness or redemption. He’ll find none.
This is a deeply disturbing and confronting movie, dealing with the psychotic fantasies of the protagonist. He’s racist, homophobic and deeply troubled. As his hopeless situation gets worse, his anger and rage intensifies. In his mind he mentally lashes out at his prospective employers, his friends and eventually verbally to a stranger in a bar. He is desperate, lost, unloved and lonely. He blames those around him for his situation and ultimately decides to use his gun to rectify the perceived wrongs and address the situation.
It has been compared to ‘Taxi Driver’ due to the similar themes of mental illness and psychotic fantasies. Although the comparisons have merit it isn’t anywhere near as good as Taxi Driver. I Stand Alone is well made and director Gaspar Noe is one of the current crop of European directors who is unafraid to say and show exactly what he feels necessary to make his point. Along with Catherine Breillat and Lars von Trier he is pushing artistic boundaries to new and disturbing levels.
Noe went on to make the much better Irreversible, an incredible film and like I Stand Alone, it’s another film that I probably won’t watch again.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars (It’s well made but I’ll never watch it again)
Any good: 2 out of 5 stars (It’s well made and utterly joyless)