Irreversible review by The Grim Ringler

Gimmicks in films are nothing new. From ghosts in the theater, to titillation, to SHOCKING ENDINGS, to you name it, but in the end, usually, its a gimmick. The movies are not always bad, but the big selling point is usually just something to get your butt into a seat and your money into a till. The idea of a film told in reverse was used not that long ago by director Christopher Nolan with Memento, and while I love the film, and felt that that device worked, it was a gimmick, and one that didnt necessarily make the film that much better. Enter Irreversible, a French gut-churner that uses the same device, but in a way that makes the most wonderful beautiful revelation in the world into something horrifying and awful. Indeed into the greatest and worst shock of the film. And in Irreversible the film told in reverse isnt so much a gimmick as a statement Hell is when the best things become horrible and heartbreaking. And as the film and its director drive home time destroys everything. Even time itself.

Told, as I said, in reverse, Irreversible is the story of a night out for what we believe at first to be three friends, but which are not. The film starts in Hell, almost literally, in a hardcore gay club called the Rectum, and with the murder of a man presumed to be the person who brutally raped a young woman. The murder is shocking and sickening and part of you cheers as he dies, the man, though provoked, obviously willing to commit his own monstrous acts when pushed. Push the camera back further and we see two men, friends we assume, on the search for the man who raped the ones girlfriend. The boyfriend wants blood, the other, the friend, wants sanity, and wants to stop this madness before something unthinkable happens. Back further and we see the results of the rape, the two men coming upon the ambulance, the girl who is almost unrecognizable and in a coma and two men who approach these friends and insist that blood calls for blood, and will help in finding the man who did this. Back again and we see a beautiful woman leaving a party and heading home, but taking the wrong route under the street in what is basically an enclosed tunnel system that SCREAMS danger she happens upon a monster, a misogynist more than happy to destroy this woman and take what he wants. Fair warning, this is as brutal, horrifying, and upsetting a movie rape as you are apt to see, and I do NOT say that lightly. Rape in any film is awful to see, but this, this has to very good actors becoming their characters and opening a window into Hell. Back and we see three friends at a party, though something is amiss, the boyfriend high and being loud, the girlfriend upset at his partying and leaving, the third wheel watching her with eyes that are not those of a friend. Back and we see three people, a couple, and a friend who is a former lover of the woman, and while all three get along, there is an obvious tension there, and more than a shade of jealousy from the ex, as he inquires about their sex life. Back and we see the couple, fresh from making love and desperately IN love and getting ready for the party. And back and the full picture, a full view of a woman on the brink of losing everything, of two men about to destroy three lives, and of a story that is made all the more potent with the final revelation, the final horror and the last glimpse of sky and air and hope that this film has to show.

I wasnt that impressed after watching the film. It was very well done, had some interesting camerawork wow will it make you dizzy though some terrific acting, and a compelling mystery, but after the rape scene, its hard to be fully interested in the film. Because the scene is so well done, and so emotionally draining my GOD is Monica Bellucci a trooper for enduring such an awful scene that the rest of the film cannot HOPE to have the sort of impact as that scene. That was what I thought at first. And then I started to think, and to consider the ending, and the film as a whole, and the darkness of it all became clear to take a couple who stand at the gates of heaven, and to drop them to the depths of hell, and to show it all in reverse. To present to us a case for murder and rape and to dare ask are these not just deeds? Good and ill pushed aside? Its awful to watch two men, two murderers, become characters you sympathize for, empathize with, and care about. And if you know anything about the film you know what is going to happen, HAS to happen, now that we see it all in reverse, and your stomach churns as the troll captures his victim underneath the streets of the city. Director Gaspar Noe gives you one day in the life of three people, and shows you how in one day, the world can end without one of them being killed.

The two big knocks on the film are that

  1. the dizzying camera style will make a lot of people seasick and just alienate a lot of people as if the story and rating werent enough to do that.
  2. the film DOES lose some impact after the rape scene. As I said, its hard to keep focused after that, so you might want to pause it, take a few minutes to clear your head, and then go in for the last half of the film.

But thats it. I loved the acting, the direction, while spotty at times, is intense and engaging, making the camera into a character, a voyeur and observer, and us into accomplices. The writing is true and honest. And the story is utterly heartbreaking and realistic. And oh, it IS a French film so you will have to read, but you can do it, I know you can.

A tremendously powerful film, but not one for the faint of heart, this is a tour de force for actress Bellucci and really shows what she can do. And as for director Noe, this is one to watch folks, as I have a feeling hes going to be one of the big names in the next few years. An arthouse rape/revenge film? You bet, and its one of the darkest I have seen.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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