Cannot be unseen.
Irreversible is about a guy, his girlfriend and her ex who all go out for a night on the town but get separated after the boyfriend gets wasted and his main squeeze goes home by herself. Not five minutes after she leaves the party, the woman is brutally raped and assaulted by a pimp until he puts her in a coma. She gets transported to a hospital, her boyfriend and her ex are devastated when they see her on the stretcher, and they immediately start searching the streets to find the pimp who did this to her and make him pay.
This is one of those movies that’s had one mean reputation going for it since it first blew up on the scene, and as a result, it took me a really long time to finally pump myself up to watch it. And now, after somehow managing to sit through the whole thing without pressing STOP or vomiting in my hand, there are definitely aspects worth appreciating, but I’m not so sure it was actually worth it in the long run.
The only other movie I’ve seen by writer/director Gaspar Noe was his debut effort, I Stand Alone, and that one quickly took the award for Most Loathsome Movie of All-Time. It’s the closest thing to a snuff film I’ve ever seen, I was completely unprepared for it and I’m still kinda wondering why it exists. All the same, there’s something to be said for a director like Noe who can push things to the extreme and showcase the depths of the human soul without nosediving into the realm of torture porn. Then again, I think I’d have a damn hard time defending that argument against someone who believes otherwise.
But Noe is a good director, a great director even. Told in reverse chronological order from aftermath to lead-up, he films this thing like a drunk on a Tilt-A-Whirl with a camera that rarely stays still or in focus, and the way it goes from frantically erratic before the opening credits even leave the screen to the polar opposite end of the spectrum by the time it all wraps up, it’s darkly hypnotic and will take you places you never want to go. It’s a total nightmare and the score by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter heightens it to a point of palpability, but as misleading as this sounds, there a fucked-up beauty to it. Also amazed at all his invisible cuts that make each new scene look like it was filmed in one long, fluid take. Could not have been an easy thing to pull off.
So from a technical standpoint, Noe is brilliant and the mood he creates from so many different angles is just astounding from start to finish. But then there’s the rape and the murder that he puts on display here, and as soon as they hit, you may very well forget everything else that this movie has to offer.
These are two traumatic, awful scenes of unbelievable violence the likes of which I have never seen before and pray I will never have to see again. For starters, the rape scene goes on for nine straight minutes with the camera never panning away and finishes even worse than it starts, and then there’s the murder which takes place during the first 15 minutes of the movie and wraps up with half of a man’s head caved in. Trust me, even with this brief look into what the scenes have to offer, your jaw will drop and you will be left horrified. I remember stumbling upon the murder scene back when I first discovered YouTube and feeling like I had just undergone shock therapy, and even having seen it before with full knowledge of what was coming, I still lost sleep over this movie.
As to why Noe takes the unflinchingly visceral approach that he does, your guess is as good as mine, but that also seems to be the desired effect. It messes with you, it burns its way into your memory banks and it will inevitably leave you wondering “Why?”. I just have a hard time believing that someone would create such a monster as this for the sake of “Why not?”
And I really can’t imagine what it must have been like to see this in a theater, but that is one bullet I’m glad to have dodged and I probably would have been one of the many to walk out if I didn’t have this darned movie blog to consider. God, how on Earth do you watch this movie with someone else in the room let alone act in this?
Although Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel do deserve some kind of strange award for signing up and giving this their all. I don’t know how many people would actually get through this movie and immediately strike up a convo about how good the acting was as soon as it ended, but this is some royally demanding shit and the way their dynamic changes in the face of such a tragedy adds a great deal to legitimizing the movie as a whole. Very sexual, very vulnerable and very humane in avenues that aren’t easily tapped into.
As much as I’d like to give this movie a higher rating because of how well-made it is, I could never in good faith recommend this movie to someone for fear of having to be That Guy Who Told Someone To See Irreversible. I know it’s just a movie and I do feel like there’s more to this than just serving as an excuse to shock the shit out of people, but thanks to the sheer brutality of those two scenes that could easily be construed as deplorable on a number of levels, it’s not an experience I would encourage someone to undertake if they weren’t already interested. A 3 is a pretty misleading score for a movie that I don’t consider bad, it’s just a movie that ultimately left me more sickened than impressed.
I almost wonder if that was the whole point.