Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass.
I shan't waste my time or yours by writing more of a plot to this film than that because this is all quite thin stuff. Normally I find myself gradually engaged by a film as it develops characters and stories however with Irréversible I was gripped immediately but the effect worked in reverse, just like the film. Others have asked why this film is told backwards, with some waxing lyrical about the film demonstrating the nature of actions and consequences. I don't buy this and I almost believe that the film is structured this way because Noé knows that his film is not good enough to engage the audience with the development of the story and characters to the point where they would still care by the end. Whereas, by starting with his biggest and most impacting sequences he has preventing the audience thinking "this is going nowhere" by putting us right where it is going to.
Of course what this means is that the film genuinely has nowhere to go to because the developmental issue is still there albeit the need to see roots rather than branches. With this there is nothing and I felt myself becoming more and more disappointed with the film as it went on as it seemed to offer nothing but missed potential. Unlike Memento (which was a thriller with the reason being to find out what caused the end), Irréversible's ending is an act of violence and revenge that, in essence occurs out of bad fortune rather than a series of events that are worth holding out for. With this in mind the focus comes more on the characters and their relationships to find a reason to make the impacting opening to the film feel that much more impacting. Sadly it does fall down and despite some interesting stuff that might have gone somewhere (if not to the actual crime), themes of sexual intimacy, differences in men and women and so on are just suggested but never delivered upon and my interest and respect for the film waned frighteningly quickly.
It is a terrible shame because the film had initially won me over quickly. With the first shots of spinning camera, "irrelevant" men and disorientating delivery I prepared myself to hate this film and slate it for being pretentious. This feeling didn't subside much as we were thrown into a gay club ending with an intensely brutal scene of violence that quite sickened me. The reason for this is almost the following scene where we see the beautiful and classy Alex brutally and meaninglessly sodomised on the floor of a dirty underpass for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong sex. With my eyes at the time I found these scenes to be quite brilliant but finding out later there was nothing beyond them I take a dimmer view. In his defence, Noé's sequences should not be mentioned in the same breath as the recent Holly wood trend for torture porn because there is nothing erotic here. The rape scene in particular is disturbing, sickening and based on violence, certainly not sex, attraction or arousal. Some comments on IMDb have disturbed me and shown that some people will still "enjoy" these scenes one particular comment saying "fans of rape movie will appreciate" the sequence I felt was in particular poor taste. However for me it is as effective as it is unpleasant, Noé does not adopt the angles, style or nudity of pornography and indeed leaves the camera on the floor and lets the actors deliver an experience that is undeniably cruel and wrong. Viewers who chose to get off on that will do so however for those of us not stimulated by the violent degradation of another the effect will be harrowing.
The cast are good where they are caught up in things. Cassel is convincing in his revenge scenes but has less to work with in the later (earlier) scenes. Likewise Bellucci is amazing in her key scene; utterly convincing and heart-wrenching in her agony and I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to shoot. Dupontel is interesting but his performance would have benefited from going from innocence to violence and not the other way round. Prestia is a convincing human version of Satan, who is sickeningly real. Noé's direction is impressive even if his ability as writer is not. His camera earlier on matches the frantic violent mood of his characters but gradually calms down. Quite what he is saying with where the film goes or how it ends is beyond me but by then he had done sufficiently little to convince that I shouldn't worry myself too much.
Overall an impacting "experience" film that starts out with the potential to be a challenging and difficult art film. However with nothing past these scenes of significant value, the backward telling just seems like a way of having the "big" scenes before losing the audience, rather than afterwards and for all my appreciation and admiration for his intense and creative technique as director, I found Noé the writer to be lacking. In summary I'm not sure if I liked this or not or if it is worth seeing but it is certainly an experience that should be seen by those looking for a diverse taste of cinema whether it is "enjoyable" or not.
- bob the moo
- Feb 17, 2008