Friday, February 03, 2006


Title: Irreversible (2002)
Dir: Gaspar Noé
Tagline: Time destroys everything.
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

Have I become completely desensitized to "shocking" movies? Maybe it is just because I already knew the two controversial scenes in Irreversible that I was not especially shocked or disturbed. Despite all the hype surrounding this movie, I still find the ending of Requiem for a Dream to be ten times more disturbing.

That business aside, Irreversible is interesting. Like Memento, the story unfolds backwards. And like Memento, it does so with good reason (not just as a gimick). If it were told in standard chronological order, it would not have the same effect. Still, Noé is a tad pretentious. Like his love for spinning the camera to the point of nausea. At times I did not mind the effect, since the goal was to establish an uneasy feeling. But sometimes it was just overkill.

In short, the film is about a girl (Monica Bellucci) getting raped, then her boyfriend and ex-boyfriend seek out the attacker for revenge.

The film opens with Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) looking for the rapist (called "Le Tenia") in a gay club. Infamous scene #1 occurs here (but I won't spoil it). I thought it showed a little too much and thus looked fake. But I guess that's just me.

As stated, the film then moves backwards to the men looking for the club, then back to the rape aka infamous scene #2 (also kinda overkill, but I get the point), then back further, etc etc to the beginning of the story.

The backwards order works so well because it changes your preconceptions about the characters. You first see a man commit murder but then gradually learn that he is not the type to ever do such a thing. You see another man who'd do anything for the one he loves, but come to find out he's a prick to the one he loves. You see a woman who may almost seem like she was "asking for" a rape, but then learn she's actually a good person who never deserved what happens to her.

Instead of introducing the audience to Bellucci's character and then showing her rape, the film first shows the rape and then explores her character by moving backwards. It is an interesting twist. As fucked up as it sounds to make an audience like a character and then show her get raped and beaten, it is actually more fucked up to first show the attack and then explore who she is.

I guess it instills a feeling of guilt and also helplessness, because you can't change it (hence, irreversible). One critic's review of the film described it like "peeling away the layers of an onion when you already know the core is rotten." That describes it perfectly. It's just disturbing to watch characters go about their normals lives when you know what bad things are going to happen to them next. It's like the audience is given a glimpse into a very dark future, but they can't do anything to change it.

The film can be hard to swallow and that's why I don't really love it. Between the annoying camera and the emphasize on brutality (to the point that it feels like cheap exploitation), it can be quite off-putting. Much of it feels confusing and pretentious, but if you sit down and think about it afterwards, you'll probably discover it does have some deep shit going on.