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 heres 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.
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, Oceans 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 (Alexs current lover) and Pierre (Alexs 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
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, humanizingat least for methe 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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