Very Violent Story of Revenge; NEVER for the Faint-Hearted
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 02/28/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Gasper Noe's feature film "Irrersible" is destined to be a topic of hot debate when it was shown in Canne Film Festival. It is reported that during the rape scene that lasts almost 10 minutes, many viewers left the theatre. And there are people who defend it, and people who attack it, as is often the case with this kind of unusual films. However, instead of joining the debate, I would like to tell what I saw on screen as I remember, even though I was curiously attracted to the ultra-violent story of revenge.The story, which director Noe thought of very casually, is very simple in itself. Beautiful Alex (Monica Bellucci, real-life wife to Vincent Cassel) is a fiancee of fun-loving Marcus (Vincent Cassel), but one night after a party Alex is raped by a man and moreover her face is heavily smashed by the guy to make her unconscious. Knowing that, Marcus hurries to the culprit with his friend Pierre to a bar for the most violent kind of revenge in the movie history.Now I warn you. The rape/revenge scenes are both so intense and realistic that some of you might get sick during the course even though you happen to know that Noe used CGIs to enhance the effect of violence. But to be fair, these scenes are, I thought, overlong but nothing gratuitous. Still, it looks as if the director wallows in making us feel uncomfortable, and I admire, without any sarcasm, his skiils so good at that. Another unusual aspect of the film is that the story goes chronologically backward. Noe insists on this idea so much that what you see first on screen is "the end credit" which rolls up (and see many names of cast, which are printed the wrong way). And you will first see the result of revenge, then revenge itself, and then the cause of the revenge ... and so on. The trip is exactly from hell to heaven, which we know is about to collapse.And the camera, especially during the first 30 minutes, goes on rolling around so that you may feel seasickness. The rotating motion is NOT that of handy camera of "Blair Witch Project," but the fact remains that we feel very uncomfortable, and we have that subject matter. The noise-like soundtrack is also effective to make us feel uneasy -- like David Lynch's films -- and the actors are so terrifyingly convincing including the rapist Jo Prestia (professinal actor and ex-boxer).Some audiences try to defend the film by saying that Noe is only trying to tell the truth, and if so, he clearly made his point. And I can understand that viewpoint -- we have seen an equally unsettling rape scene in one Jodie Foster film; and as for violence, Oscar winner Steven Spielberg is not a stranger to violence if you remember his WW2 film. But those films never brought the violence to the forefront as Gasper Noe did. In a sense, that is an admirable thing. But if you want to pay some money for seeing that ... well, if depends. I just happened to think so.From the purely technical point of view, Director Noe shows his ability to create an unnerving atmosphere. The film is shot in a unique way -- using only one shot for each scene -- so, after one scene starts, it goes on till the scene changes to the next. As this now very rarely used method is employed -- though some of them are the result of post-production work, which pieced together some different takes -- each shot is consequently very long, causing us another reason for having to be patiently following the ever-moving camera, which easily beats that of Brian DePalma.For all its techinical achievement, "Irreversible" suffers from its own methond of storytelling. Compared with the violent first half, the latter peaceful part looks inevitably much weaker. Sometimes, the back-through-time tactics create an original effect; when we see too frivolous Marcus, who ignores the presence of Alex at party, we feel sense of tragedy and folly of humans, as we know what is going to happen after that scene. The film has some unexpected moments when we think -- imagining "what if" situations which, as you know, are always very futile attempts of humans as every history tells. And of course, I know that by the combination of Alex's heaven and hell, Noe is making his own commentary about our life. The film tells us twice on screen "Time destroys everything" and, right, that's another point. But I am afraid the method is too simple and too obvious, and doesn't hold well not least after such intense violence.Still you want to see? OK, then, here's some tips for you that might make you understand this one better, which I quote from the booklet I bought at mutiplex in Japan. 1) Noe thought of the concept of "Irreversible" in May, 2001, using Cassel and possibly Bellucci. But as she was to work for two "Matrix" films from September, he had very short time to prepare for actual shooting. 2) They shot the sequences chronologically, I mean in this case, from "heaven" to "hell." 3) You see Philippe Nahon as ex-butcher, who was in Noe's previous films. The dialgues are all ad-lib. 4) Noe had difficulties in "ending" the film (in this case, the most peaceful scene of Mercus and Alex making love). There seem to have been several versions, but he decided on the present one, which shows a poster of one masterpiece film. That film's director, now gone for some years, is famous for a film starring Malcolm McDowell, who played a role of "Alex" -- well, Noe must respect Stanley Kubrick.As a whole, for my part, I confess I was very much impressed with the film. But because of the nature of the film, I cannot "recommend" this one to you. I wrote down what I know. That's why I give only three stars."
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 05/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After witnessing the nightmare of Gaspar Noe's "I Stand Alone," a movie that left me in open-mouthed awe for days afterwards, I just knew I had to see "Irreversible." I am not a big foreign film aficionado, not by a long shot, but Noe's films are worth watching simply because they are deeply disturbing jaunts into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. He's not above showing life as it really is, and he does it in ways that make you laugh at the cleverness of the presentation even as you cringe in disgust at the subject matter. In other words, his pictures are right up my alley. I always love to watch cinema that challenges the viewer on some level, something rare indeed in an age of the American special effects laden summer blockbusters. That doesn't necessarily mean I always like these types of films; oftentimes I don't when the fine line between challenging and pretentiousness is crossed, but Noe's stuff is great because it is premium grade weirdness. "Irreversible" will remind many viewers of the American film "Memento," except Noe's film is darker, oh so much darker, than that movie."Irreversible" flows backwards, with the closing credits opening the film and each scene shown from the end towards the beginning. Right from the start, you know you're going to see something different. Boy, are you ever! A sex club with fleeting sounds and images of pornographic behaviors, a sickening scene of a human head being bashed in with a fire extinguisher, and an arrest quickly start you wondering about what it all means. As the film progresses (regresses?), we learn why one man killed another in that seedy bar. Alex (Monica Bellucci), a rather carefree soul, was brutally raped and beaten by a thuggish French pimp in a subway tunnel. Her boyfriend Marcus (Vincent Cassel) promptly had an emotional meltdown when he discovered what happened to his lovely woman. Full of seething rage, he goes on a rampage through the city looking for the man who maimed Alex. Along for the ride is Pierre (Albert Dupontel), Alex's former boyfriend who desperately attempts to rein in Marcus's reckless quest for vengeance.Surprises abound in "Irreversible," surprises that will leave you thinking about the film long after it ends. I was a little amazed I figured out how the film concludes (begins, actually) long before I got there. You just knew there had to be some big, explosive revelation that would give Alex's victimization even more pathos. Well, there is and it's quite shocking. In fact, it would have worked almost as well had the film been shown in chronological order. Since Noe chose to reverse the sequence of the scenes, he not only retains the film's shock value but also imbues it with a frequently recurring sense of "what if." If only Marcus had paid more attention to his wife at that party. If only Alex had listened to Pierre and not gone out alone in a dangerous neighborhood. If only, if only, if only. You get the idea. This sense of identification gives the movie its edge. We've all done the same thing, asked the same questions, after a personal tragedy. I know I have. What shocks even more are the things Gaspar Noe can get away with showing in a French film. The French have little problem with overt pornography, morally repugnant violence, and lengthy discussions on the most intimate details of sexual relationships. Sure, American films are violent and sometimes crass in their discussions of sex, but not like the French films I have seen lately. I can't imagine any mainstream film made here that would show a rape sequence that runs for nearly ten minutes, or the weird goings on in a club. If you have a serious problem with any of these issues, stay far, FAR away from "Irreversible." For that matter, stay just as far away from Noe's "I Stand Alone," a movie that shows in gruesome detail a murder/suicide. I will say that the filmmaker does not in anyway attempt to glorify the vicious acts of cruelty and barbarism he depicts in his movies. That doesn't mean it makes these incidents any easier to watch, however."Irreversible" is a shocker on many levels, a film not suited to a majority of the movie going public. It's not the sort of movie you would take a date to, or watch with members of your family unless you're a member of the Manson family. It should go without saying that Noe's picture is not suitable for young children. I recommend watching "Irreversible" alone so that it becomes a personal experience. I don't know what Gaspar Noe will come out with next, or if he'll ever make another film again, but I want to see it whatever it ends up being. If you haven't seen "I Stand Alone" before watching this one, make sure you see it soon. Fans of this type of cinema should also check out "Baise-Moi," another French film filled with even greater amounts of nihilism and despair than this one."
A film both shocking and exploitive, but also poignant
A. Sandoc | San Pablo, California United States | 08/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Gaspar Noe's Irreversible is filmed in the same style as Christopher Nolan's excellent Memento. With the story unfolding in reverse sequence, the audience's first impression of the story doesn't end up being the same once it finishes.
Everyone has made it a point to mention the disturbing and hard-to-watch sodomizing that Monica Bellucci's character goes through at the hands of a random, strung-out stranger. This 10-minute sequence is as disturbing as any film sequence I have ever had the chance to watch. There is absolutely no feeling of lust or sexiness this scene brings up. A sense of shock, disgust and pain is more appropriate reaction to seeing the lovely Ms. Bellucci's character go through a very inhumane experience. This scene goes a long way to explaining the film's beginning where a brutal and equally inhumane murder takes place inside a murky, red-lit, underground gay S&M club.
As the film continues to move backwards in time and shows the viewer the earlier and happier time of Bellucci's and Vincent Cassel's characters, the earlier scenes of violence take on a more poignant and sad note. In a space of a day many lives are broken and destroyed, and in the end all because of a random night occurrence in an dingy, lit underpass.
Gaspar Noe's film is not for everyone and even those daring enough to take a chance to view it will have a hard time sitting through the first half of the film. The film itself takes on a dream-like quality as it begins to unfold. From its nightmarish tone and look to a dreamy last reel. I have heard people call Noe's film as exploitive and misogynistic in its treatment of its main female character. In the end, Noe's choice to shoot the rape scene so realistic and have it linger and linger shows the viewer that evil and ugly things do happen in real life. One either takes it and learn from it or turn away and pretend it never happened.
Irreversible is a film that people will either love or hate. This film doesn't straddle the center when it comes to viewers reaction to it. Gaspar Noe's film is not perfect, but overall it provokes the viewer to think on what they've seen and felt as the story unfolded."
Interesting,to say the least
adriana | Los Angeles,CA,USA | 03/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can't deny that Irreversible is an interesting,intriguing film. It is definately original, and well put together.It also happens to include a scene of brutal violence,involving a man's head beaten down to the bones with a fire extinguisher, and an absolutely heart wrenching rape scene that lasts for something of 10 minutes, involving the gorgeous Monica Bellucci.I feel that the ULTRA violence is crucial to the way the film works, because, since the movie runs in reverse sequence,a la Memento, you start out with the bloody violent end, and "end" with the clean,pure,and happy beginning. That is one of the top reasons I praise this film; its ability to take you from a place so dark and sinister you couldn't even imagine, into a peacful world without blinking once, and losing its intensity.Also,I want to add that I can understand how some would be turned off by the heavy content of the rape scene, but don't go calling it gratituous,or revolting. Rape is a SERIOUS,SERIOUS crime, and I'm sick of it being glossed over in the movies.If you find it revolting,then don't pick a movie that deals with the subject.Seriously, people, it's time that rape was handled honestly in a film.Safe to say, this film achieves that to the max.Director Gaspar Noe masterfully creates a dark,creepy,sinister atmosphere through the use of lighting,soundtrack and nauseating camera shifts.The actors also seem very natural in their roles-it really doesn't feel like they're acting at all, which is the case with many European films of quality.Monica Bellucci is lovely and full of inexplicable,irresistible charm.Towards the end of the film, where you get to know these people prior to the horrific events that took place, you see a vivid portrait of a young couple.Vincent Cassel, who is Bellucci's real life husband, worked well alongside Monica as her boyfriend in the film.The film created a compelling,tender portrait of their relationship, making it all the more heart wrenching to think of the way things turned out.The film's reverse order workes perfectly, and I believe the film would not have achieved it's effect without this technique.All in all, I'll say that the latter,toned down parts towards the film's end do not pale at all in comparison to the film's brutal beginning.They're just different, putting it mildly.Another interesting prospect the film brings up through a series of hints, and silent gestures, is that perhaps all this horror was just imagined inside the female protagonist's head.Pretty to think so, ain't it?Irreversible is not for the squeamish, but if you're up for an interesting,altogether different film, see it once.I'm not going to call it a work of art, or claim it as life-changing.What it is, however, is a worthy, albeit challenging film that will leave you truly immersed in thought."