original movie poster
|Directed by||Gaspar Noé|
|Produced by||Brahim Chioua
|Written by||Gaspar Noé|
|Music by||Thomas Bangalter|
|Distributed by||Lions Gate Entertainment (USA)|
|Release date(s)||May 22, 2002 France
January 2003 USA
|Running time||97 minutes|
Irréversible (2002, France) is a film written, directed, edited, and photographed by Gaspar Noé. It stars Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel. Several reviewers declared it one of the most disturbing and controversial films of 2002. The film employs non-linear narrative. The music is by French electronic musician Thomas Bangalter, who is best known as half of the band Daft Punk.
Irréversible won the "Bronze Horse" award at the Stockholm Film Festival and competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the "Best Foreign Language Award" by the Film Critics Circle of Australia. It was also voted "Best Foreign Language Film" by the San Diego Film Critics Society (tied with Les Invasions Barbares).
Irréversible contains thirteen scenes presented in reverse chronological order.
The beginning of the film (that is, the chronological end of the story) features two men talking in a small apartment suite. One of them is the "Butcher", the protagonist of Noe's previous film, I Stand Alone. In a drunken monologue, the Butcher reveals that he was arrested for having sex with his daughter, which happens in I Stand Alone. Their philosophical musings shift to the subject of a commotion in the streets outside, which is derisively attributed to the patrons of a nearby homosexual S&M nightclub called "The Rectum."
Minutes earlier, two men named Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel), are escorted out of that nightclub by the police. Marcus is on a stretcher, apparently injured, and Pierre is in handcuffs. Men on the streets shout anti-gay insults at them. Earlier that evening, Marcus and Pierre arrived at the club in a frantic search for somebody nicknamed le Tenia — "the Tapeworm". Marcus finds the man believed to be le Tenia and attacks him. The man pins down Marcus, then snaps his arm and attempts to rape him. Pierre rescues Marcus by bludgeoning the attacker's face using a fire extinguisher, brutally and fatally crushing the man's skull after repeated blows. During the onslaught, the real le Tenia is seen bemused by the situation.
Before entering the club, it is learned that Marcus and Pierre went in search of le Tenia after questioning several prostitutes. Apparently their goal is retribution for someone's rape. They track down a transsexual prostitute named Concha who identifies the rapist as le Tenia after Marcus threatens to slash her with a piece of broken glass. Concha also reveals that the rapist is likely to be found at a nightclub called The Rectum.
Marcus and Pierre were aided in their search by a street thug named Mourad and his friend. Mourad promised to help them find le Tenia for money so that Marcus could have his revenge, rather than leave the matter to the police. It is revealed that le Tenia anally raped Marcus's girlfriend Alex (Monica Bellucci), and placed her in a coma by beating her severely.
The rape takes place after Alex encounters le Tenia beating Concha in a pedestrian underpass. Le Tenia then turns his attention on Alex and threatens her with a knife to her throat. He then proceeds to rape Alex, pinning her down on her stomach and threatening her. After raping Alex, le Tenia brutally beats her. From this scene, it becomes clear that Pierre and Marcus attack the wrong man later in the story (earlier in the film). Le Tenia was in fact standing right next to the man Pierre killed in Club Rectum.
In the next scene, we see Alex, Marcus, and Pierre at a party. Alex is annoyed by Marcus' unrestrained use of drugs and alcohol and his flirtatious behavior with other women, and consequently decides to leave the party. The next scene shows the trio discussing sex in a metro station and in the train. It is revealed Pierre used to be Alex's lover.
The penultimate scene shows Marcus and Alex lying in bed after sex. Alex reveals she might be pregnant, and Marcus is pleased with the possibility. To prepare for the party, Marcus leaves to buy wine and Alex has a shower. Alone, Alex uses a home pregnancy test that confirms she is now carrying a child, for which she is elated. She is shown sitting on the bed clothed, with her hand on her belly: a poster for Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the tagline "The Ultimate Trip", is above the headboard. The final scene shows Alex reading An Experiment with Time by John William Dunne in a park, surrounded by playing children. Beethoven's 7th Symphony is heard in the background. The camera spins around faster and faster until it blacks out into a strobe effect, accompanied by a pulsing, roaring sound. A rapidly-spinning image of a water spray can be dimly perceived.
The final title card reads: LE TEMPS DETRUIT TOUT ("Time Destroys Everything") — a phrase uttered in the film's first scene by one of the men in the apartment.
Critical response to the film was very divided.
Film critic Roger Ebert has argued that the film's structure makes it inherently moral; that by presenting vengeance before the acts that inspire it, we are forced to process the vengeance first, and therefore think more deeply about its implications.
Audience reaction to both the lengthy, violent sexual attack and disquietingly brutal murder has ranged from appreciation of its artistic merit to leaving the theater in disgust. Newsweek magazine stated that "If outraged viewers (mostly women) at the Cannes Film Festival are any indication, this will be the most walked-out-of movie of 2003". In the same review Newsweek's David Ansen suggested that the film displayed "an adolescent pride in its own ugliness".
Irréversible was shot using a widescreen 16mm process. Many of the scenes were shot with multiple takes that were then invisibly edited together using digital processing, creating the illusion that the scene is filmed all in one shot, with no cuts or edits, such as the rape scene, portrayed in a single, unbroken shot, lasting nine minutes. Although the penis can be seen after the raping, this was later digitally added in editing with computer-generated imagery. Another example is with the scene where Pierre bludgeons a man to death, crushing his skull. Computer graphics were brought in to augment the results, as initial footage using a conventional latex dummy proved unconvincing.
The film stars:
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