Saturday, October 30, 2010

Irreversible: A Review

Gaspar Noé's film Irreversible was one of the most discussed and debated films to come out in the last decade. The film stars Monica Bellucci (Malena) as Alex, and Vincent Cassel (Ocean's Twelve, La Heine ) as a couple that is about to be doomed by irreversible acts of violence. Noé, wrote, directed, photographed and edited the entire film himself.

The film is told in a non-linear narrative style and opens with disorienting and shaky camera angles and movements. Then we see two men talking in a small apartment suite. One of them is the "Butcher", the protagonist of Noé's film, I Stand Alone. Their conversation is interrupted by the noise coming from street below where a homosexual S&M nightclub called "The Rectum" is located.

Marcus (Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel), are removed from the nightclub by the police. Marcus is on a stretcher and Pierre is in handcuffs. Earlier Marcus and Pierre arrived at the club in a frantic search for somebody nicknamed "the Tapeworm". Marcus finds who he believes to be the man and attacks him. The man breaks Marcus' arm then attempts to rape him. Pierre rescues Marcus brutally crushing the man's skull with a fire extinguisher. It is revealed that this run in was all for nothing because Marcus and Pierre attacked the wrong man.

Marcus and Pierre went in search of “the Tapeworm”, seeking revenge after they discover that he was responsible for anally raping Marcus's girlfriend Alex (Bellucci), and placing her in a coma by beating her severely in a pedestrian underpass. It was rumored that after this scene, which was shot in a single take with one camera and in real time, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival many members of the audience were so outraged they stormed out in disgust. It was even rumored that some were crying or near vomiting.

If the viewer is able to make it through the terrible violence of the first half of the film then one is treated to an equally painful but beautifully told love story. The penultimate scene being when Alex reveals to Marcus that she is pregnant while the two are lying in bed together. Just before this, we see Alex, alone looking at the results of a home pregnancy test that confirms she is now carrying a child. She is then shown sitting on the bed clothed, with her hand on her belly. A poster for Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the tag line "The Ultimate Trip", is on the wall behind her. The final scene of the film shows Alex in a park reading An Experiment with Time by John William Dunne, while Beethoven's 7th Symphony is heard in the background. The film dissolves into more disorienting camera techniques until the final title card appears, which reads: "Time Destroys Everything" which is a phrase uttered in the film's first scene by one of the men in the apartment.

Despite being painful to watch the film does engage the viewer both viscerally and intellectually in a way that very few films ever have. Most of the audience is split as to whether or not they like or dislike the film despite the fact that it Bronze Horse" award at the Stockholm Film Festival and competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

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