Irréversible

Movie Review #888

“IRRÉVERSIBLE” IS A SICKENINGLY VIOLENT PORTRAIT OF HEINOUS CRIME.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano

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Premiered May 23, 2002 (Cannes Film Festival)
Released March 7, 2003 (limited)
Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Not Rated (contains graphic violence, depiction of rape, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, strong language, drug use)
97 minutes

If you’ve heard of “Irréversible”, and have not seen it, but you are aware of any one scene that isn’t the infamous rape scene, consider me surprised. And I must confess that while that scene should never have been filmed in its entirety (let alone shown in its entirety), I am glad that it has given the film a reputation. Because no one wants to watch a movie knowing they’re in for watching a brutal depiction of a brutal, brutal act. Frankly, if a film is going to depict molestation with absolutely nothing to fetter it from doing so, the rest of the movie should at least be watchable.

This infamous scene occurs in the middle of “Irréversible”, and it seems to split the motion picture into two distinct, uneven portions. The first half is clearly a thriller. Two men are seeking revenge for a woman who has just been raped. They are later on revealed to be the woman’s boyfriend and ex-boyfriend, and they know who they’re looking for. It seems like a trend in the early 21st century cinema to tell rape-and-revenge stories out of chronological order. (I’m thinking “Memento” and “Kill Bill”.) But “Irréversible”, quite ironically, would have worked more effectively in chronological order, rather than being pieced together in reverse order. The second half is far less interesting. I think it might be an attempt to establish some character development, but it just seems like a soap opera.

The title is a great one, as it refers to both style and substance. The film can be played backward, but it’d be a much different film (and sadly, a much better film). Therefore, the film is irreversible. Additionally, rape is an act that leaves a devastating effect and cannot be taken back. Therefore, the act itself is irreversible.

But the film seems to present style over substance. I guess, if you’d like to look at that as a compliment, then do. The dizzying camerawork is spectacular. The synthesizer riffs, composed by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter, are concise and riveting. Rather than conventional opening credits, we watch the end credits scroll in backward, gradually skewing as some of Bangalter’s music seeps through. The editing cleverly mashes to the next scene to make this seem like one continuous sequence. But there’s no getting across the fact that the substance is insufficient and hardly even premeditated. This is a film about rape, and what it says about rape victims is incredibly demeaning. We don’t see the woman who is raped until the scene itself, and after that, she is characterized as promiscuous.

I have never seen a more dirty movie than “Irréversible”. I’ve seen movies with more violence, more sex, and more profanity.** But I’ve never seen a dirtier movie in my life. It’s simply because writer-director Gaspar Noé knows no boundaries, and that is not a good thing. He doesn’t set out to make the film a difficult watch, but when he’s elongating a rape beyond five minutes, and ending the film with a continuous, fifteen-minute sex scene, that’s rather unusual.

**This is with the exception of homophobic slurs. “Irréversible” is without a doubt the most homophobic movie I have ever seen, by combination of the obscenities used against the demographic and the way the demographic is presented.

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10 thoughts on “Irréversible

  1. I won’t argue that this is a tough movie to watch. I had a hard time falling asleep after seeing watching this but I will disagree that this movie would be better if told in chronological order. I will be revealing some spoilers below.

    When we first see the two men attack the guy at the club. We are repulsed at seeing such a violent act. We know that someone has hurt Alex but we don’t know who that person is or what is meant by hurt(I dont remember if they said anything about the rape). When we find out that she was indeed raped we cheered a bit that the guys got their revenge for it. But that is only until we see who the real rapist was. Then it was like “oh Shit” They killed the wrong guy. Revenge never worked out as well as they thought . The rape sequence itself is a tough one but it’s never exploitative or glamourized like a lot of other movies show it. (Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo is an example of that) If you felt uncomfterable. Good, you should. It was the first time we have seen a moment like that from the victim’s perspective. For them, rape is not something that lasts for a few ninutes and then goes away. It lasts for what feels like an eternity Going backwards from that we learn that Alex was pregnant and about to be marreid to Marcus he movie ends beigns with an uplfting message of hope only to be reminded of tragic ending. Time destroys everything is the point of the narrative being told in reverse order. There was no escape n the fates of these characters. Brutal Yes, but still a beautiful movie

    • Answer – The Bride is left for dead on her wedding day and violated nonstop for the four years that she is in a coma. There’s the rape part. Once she awakens from her coma, her first instinct is to kill the rapists, as well as those who left her to get raped. There’s the revenge part.

      Though I guess once she’s done with Buck and that other rapist, she mainly wants revenge because she was left for dead, not because she was raped during her comatose state. I do sort of think of it as a rape-and-revenge film, but it’s all sorts of kinds of movies, because it’s Tarantino, and the rape-and-revenge thing is just a small part of it that he gives the story for the same reason he homages Italian horror in the movie.

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