Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

REVIEW: Irreversible

Irreversible ****

Worst date movie EVER. That could be the short review of Irreversible, unless it was a double bill of ‘Irreversible’ and ‘Antichrist’; actually that would take a lot to top as worst date movie ever.

Irreversible takes place over the course of one night in Paris. The films scenes unfold in reverse order starting in a hotel room with the Butcher (Philippe Nahon) from Noe’s previous film ‘I Stand Alone’. The camera, which is always moving, glides out of the window and into a gay nightclub called Rectum. It is here that the first of the films two controversial scenes takes place, an incredibly brutal act of violence. Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) are looking for someone called Tenia, when they find him things don’t go well and the scene ends with the aforementioned shocking act of violence. It is at this point that the first reversal of scene order takes place. We move back in time to see Cassel and Dupontel searching for Tenia; with the help of two local criminals they search the sleazier areas of a seedier side of Paris.

As the film moves back again we eventually reach the scene that caused the most problems for ratings boards and censors around the world, and baited the worlds press. Monica Bellucci leaves her drunken partner Cassel at a party, unable to get a taxi decides to walk through an underpass to the other side of the road. It is in the underpass that she witnesses a pimp beating a prostitute. The pimp turns on her and brutally rapes then disfigures her over 10 minutes. The scene plays out almost entirely in a locked shot without any score and is almost impossible to watch.

As the scene ends we move backward again to the party then backward to the trio travelling there. These scenes give us so much background information that we are constantly piecing the whole thing together as we move backwards through the story.

Writer/Director Gaspar Noe has made one of the most daring and brutal films ever made. Better than his previous effort ‘I Stand Alone’, this film is even more disturbing and confrontational. Noe has taken what in essence is a typical rape and revenge story but made it far more intriguing by using the reverse-chronology style that was similarly effective in ‘Memento’.

The film is technically superb. The earlier scenes are all hand held and disorientating to watch; as the film travels backwards the camera becomes steadier and the pace more serene. Noe is playing with time and our perceptions, things are not getting better, the worse is yet to come. He is obviously trying to provoke reactions from the audience and it is impossible not to react, either with disgust, horror, hatred or admiration… it’s possible to have all those emotional reactions at various moments of the film. One thing you cannot do is show indifference or easily dismiss it.

I heard an interview with Vincent Cassel when he was promoting ‘Mesrine’ last year and he said that when Noe pitched the film to him at a club he wanted to hit him. He went home to his on screen and real life partner Bellucci and told her of Noe’s pitch; it was her who then insisted they both do the film, they are both excellent, as is Dupontel. Noe is definitely a talent however this film is not for everyone. It is an incredible piece of work however I probably won’t watch it ever again. BE WARNED THAT THIS FILM CONTAINS DISTURBING SCENES.

Quality: 4 out of 5 stars

Any good: 4 out of 5 stars