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Director: Gaspar Noe; Stars: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel; Release Date: August 05, 2003

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Shocking Yes, But Well Worth the Effort, And Yes, Time Does Destroy All

  • Jan 16, 2006
  • by
Pros: Well scripted, well acted.

Cons: Portions of the film are very dark.

The Bottom Line: In the end I am glad I finally watched Irreversible because the story was well scripted, and the movie well acted.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Irreversible first came to my attention while reading the review for another movie. Now I have long been a fan of the beautiful, talented, and under-rated Italian actress Monica Bellucci, and I have seen most of her most noteworthy body of work, but I had never heard of Irreversible. And after seeing the movie I can understand in rather prudish America why the movie never made it to a multiplex near me, or you for that matter. I am no stranger to violent movies and I am by no means squeamish when it comes to blood and gore, Irreversible takes brutality and sheer human cruelty to a whole new level, laying it out in startling realism.

And here’s the twist, the story is told backward ala Memento. At first this reverse order storytelling, like Memento threw me for a loop, but after I caught on, the movie unraveled almost naturally, climbing out of the darkness of revenge fueled violence into the colored world of loving relationship between our two main characters.

The Story

Directed by Argentine Gaspar Noé Irreversible, which takes place in Paris, France begins with the closing credits running backwards before the film begins (or ends) with two men talking about something innocuous above a gay S&M club called The Rectum, an apt, but not exactly original name for such a joint.

The movie then zeros in on the outside of the club as Marcus portrayed by Vincent Cassell (Elizabeth, Ocean’s Twelve) and Pierre portrayed by Albert Dupontel are being escorted out by the police; Marcus is on a stretcher with his arm broken and Pierre is in handcuffs. The next scene depicts why the two men are being lead from the rather debauchery filled club. In this scene the graphic violence of the film first rears its blood soaked head.

From here Irreversible proceeds to unwind in a series of single-take scenes each of which give more context and meaning to what we have seen in the scene proceeding it, until we get to Alexandra portrayed by Monica Bellucci (Under Suspicion, The Matrix Reloaded, She Hate Me), and her brutal rape. This very long, and hard-to-watch rape sequence (which may or may not have taken place) takes place in a subway underpass as Alex attempts to make her way home in a questionable neighborhood where she was attending a party with the aforementioned Marcus (Alex’s current lover) and Pierre (Alex’s ex-lover).

After the rape scene the movie lightens, and frame-by-frame more color is added and the relationship between the principle parties is brought into sharper focus…

My Thoughts

For the average American Irreversible will be a shock to the system. The violence is graphic, but by no means nothing out of the ordinary for something out of Hollywood. The sex and depictions of sex however, are something American audiences are not wholly used to; Brown Bunny, and In The Cut not withstanding. Full frontal nudity (male and female), oral & anal sex are on unapologetic display throughout Irreversible and I have no doubt that the movie would earn a triple-X rating here in the states. And then there is the language, which again is far more graphic and sexually charged than any mainstream American film.

But the violence, sex, and language are necessary to tell the story. And to be fair to the film, the worst of the violence is seen though slightly rusty colored lens, that turns the film dark; the characters are often lost in the shadows and what they are doing is left as much to the imagination as the eye. The rape scene however, is sharply depicted and it seemed to go one forever. Monica Bellucci in what must have been a hugely difficult scene pulled off the emotion of the event flawlessly. As I stated above, the scene was hard to watch, and the camera was unflinching its single minded determination to bring it to our doorstep. The director to his credit concentrated on the character reaction to the violation and not the violation itself, humanizing—at least for me—the brutality and dehumanizing nature of rape and it sometimes even more violent aftermath.

I have to admit that I had serious trepidations about watching this film and let it sit in my to-watch pile for two months before I popped it into the DVD player. But by the end of the film, I feel as though the violence and other aspects of Irreversible had been over-emphasized to the determent of the rest of the story. In the end I am glad I finally watched Irreversible because the story was well scripted, and the movie well acted.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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December 15, 2010
excellent write up.
More Irreversible reviews
review by . February 15, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****     Some of the best films tempt you to look away. French director Gaspar Noe has made a film which does indeed want you to look away, but only if you want to. It isn't forcing you to not watch; and then again it's not forcing you into sticking around. But if you can stick around, "Irreversible" is one of the most disturbing though-provoking films you may ever see; graphic in its depictions of violence and rape, but powerful in its ability to provoke. I do …
review by . May 28, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Irreversible Damage
Perhaps one of the most shocking films I've seen in years, I'm having a difficult time placing a star rating on this review but let me give you some facts if nothing else.      Monica Belluci is one of the most beautiful actresses in the business & I hated watching her gruesome rape scene (even though this isn't the most graphic scene in the film.) This montage alone was perhaps one of the most scary rape scenes since Baise Moi or I Spit On …
review by . May 18, 2008
This movie is a very unusual and dark revenge story.     It goes backwards. If you liked Memento, you'll like the use of reverse chronology in this movie. Much like Memento, the reverse order of events is used to convey a message. The movie is a wild ride where I was constantly trying to catch up and at the end felt that they tied it all up well. If you watch it a couple times, you'll notice subtle hints and plot elements happening in the corners of the screen.    The …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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About this movie


After what would normally be the end credits (which run backwards), IRREVERSIBLE begins with a heated hunt through a gay S&M club. It is a chaotic sequence shot from a wildly spiraling camera seamlessly edited together to appear as one single shot and culminating in one of the most violent murders ever portrayed on celluloid. Following this crescendo, Gaspar Noe's (I STAND ALONE) film uses a reverse narrative structure similar to MEMENTO through which the audience learns the motivations for the murder and the relationships of three parties directly involved, the beautiful Alex (Monica Bellucci) and two men who adore her (Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel). The frenzied style of the opening gives way to increasingly static camera work throughout leading to an idyllic final shot of Alex, who the audience has long known is a doomed woman, set to Beethoven and alive with color and youthful innocence otherwise absent from this bleak urban nightmare. The film disregards conventional editing by ending each sce...
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Director: Gaspar Noé
Genre: Drama
Release Date: 2003, January 1, 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Screen Writer: Gaspar Noé
Runtime: 1hr 39min
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