Irreversible - Lions Gate Films
Written by Ray Casta   
Saturday, 12 January 2008

"Irreversible" DVD Cover - Severed Cinema

AKA: Irréversible
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
Written by: Gaspar Noé
Produced by: Gaspar Noé, Christophe Rossignon, Vincent Cassel
Cinematography by: Gaspar Noé, Benoît Debie
Editing by: Gaspar Noé
Music by: Thomas Bangalter
Cast: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Philippe Nahon, Jo Prestia
Year: 2003
Country: France
Language: French (English Subtitles)
Color: Color
Runtime: 97 min

Severed Cinema - DVD Logo
Video: NTSC R1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Official Website: Lions Gate Films

As "Irreversible" opens, we are introduced to the unnamed main character from "I Stand Alone", who is known as The Butcher (Phillipe Nahon).  He is sitting nude, sharing his company with a man, who tells him a crime committed in Gaspar Noé's previous film.  If anyone is wondering why Noé decided to use The Butcher, it's most likely because he wants to prepare his viewers for the film.  His role is practically as a host, introducing the emphasized theme "time destroys all things".  Noé is not only attaching his name to the project, he tells us how crime is ultimately related.  The Butcher's view on the world was what "I Stand Alone" was about.  His opening thesis is delivered, as Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) are running through the underground, gay S&M club "The Rectum", where they are searching for a gay pimp, known as Le Tenia (Jo Prestia).  They bust into the various rooms, demanding to know where this person is, while disgusting sex acts flash right in front of their faces.

What grabs our undivided attention is how we are plunged in the middle of the action at first, and in only the opening sequence, we are witnesses to one of the most brutally graphic, harrowing pieces of ultra-violence ever put to film.  In the tradition of Chris Nolan's "Memento", "Irreversible" uses the same backwards structure, shifting back to what preceded earlier in the story, so we come to that realization of why the characters are behaving the way they do.  Acknowledging the brilliance of the use of time is important to the "Time destroys all things" thesis.  Gaspar Noé comprises the film of only twelve scenes taking place over the span of 24 hours with each of the sequences designed as a continuous long take like Aleksandr Sokurov would.  Regarding the daunting technique, Noé is explaining the actions of Marcus and Pierre at the end of their journey, reflecting their scarred state of emotion when being plunged into a world with no rules.  "Instead of using a civilized man by being contaminated by the barbarity of others, then becoming an animal himself, we start with those ferocious animals, then we see how this animal is civilized," says Noé.

"I wanted this movie to be like a mushroom trip -- it would start with a bad trip and then become the good trip.  In a mushroom trip, everything is fuzzy at the beginning.  It's like a nightmare, you'll have glimpses of things you think you see, but you can't remember them," says Noé about the direction, which is what he wanted his movie to be.  Opening credits screw with your head; dark atmosphere; lucid, unbroken takes; a jolting, hammering soundtrack like "I Stand Alone"; the camera shaking wildly and out of control; a voyeuristic camera violently refuses to shy away from any horrifying exploit.  A lot of people consider the film to be art.  Others don't possibly look at it that way.  I am in the camp who believes "Irreversible" is too important to be written off as pretentious.  The direction tells of the state of mind of its characters, and what it does best is allow us to inhabit the atmosphere, and put ourselves in their shoes, to a point where we cannot escape.

We realize what brought upon the mindless act of violence in the opening sequence, which involved a man being beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.  Although they are opposites from each other, Marcus and Pierre try to have a good time together.  Marcus is seeing Pierre's ex-girlfriend, Alex (a stunning Monica Bellucci), who leaves a party where Marcus is drunk and obnoxious.  At the party, he tries to get Pierre to unwind, but he does not wish to.  Marcus, on the other hand, snorts lines of coke, gets drunk, and flirts with other girls at the party.  His behavior makes her leave the party, but when she leaves, Pierre mentions how she shouldn't leave alone, as it's not safe.  Walking down a darkly lit underpass and wearing an attractive flashy dress, Alex sees Le Tenia beating on a hooker.  Alex is shocked and doesn't know whether to run or not.  What follows is a scene so startling, you won't help but feel uncomfortable and genuinely frightened for her.  You won't be able to sit straight, as I'll admit I desperately wanted to look away.  Filmed in an endless nine minutes, it's the first time Noé has fixated his camera on an image this long.

Bellucci's real life husband, Vincent Cassel plays Marcus with a searing conviction most spouses in reality would act after their loved one has been attacked in the way Alex was.  Albert Dupontel is the other side of the coin, a man so determined to talk Marcus out of acting vengeance out, his personal morals are put to the ultimate test.  The depictions of someone over the edge, becoming the animal, seeking retribution for the violation and attack of their loved one are so convincing, it's painful and it's sad.  One has to give endless credit to Monica Bellucci, who is as fearless as the role demands.  A film as chaotic and nihilistic as "Irreversible" is not expected to culminate to an ending of pure, tragic poetry.  As it progresses, it becomes less visceral and more meditative of a film.  When we see how happy Alex and Marcus are, such as the genuinely touching scene when Alex realizes she is finally pregnant, it becomes sad because we know what is happening later in their evening.  I think Gaspar Noé's "Irreversible" should be seen for what it really is: a deeply pessimistic, profound meditation on violence and human nature.

Looking deeper into the themes, the camera spinning around refers to three things: the ultimate and defining cyclical violence, the vertigo of life, and Nietzsche's "eternal recurrence" philosophy.  When a camera movement transpires in the park, the camera suggests Alex's future is out of control.  We're watching a blissful, beautifully poetic moment; it's a visual distillation to symbolizing chaos in a way by blinking a white strobe.  The strobe light is significant, especially when we recognize where Alex is during the rape scene.  Framing of her body somehow relates to garbage, and the light is mirrored again when she is with Marcus in bed.  Natural lights are crucial in the way the rape is juxtaposed with the way light and skin tone acts as sexual digression in the bedroom.  Marcus plays a song, which is relevant.  Listen to the song, implying we are heading in circles in relationships and it results in a downward spiral, the real questions is: Where is it heading?  Where are we going?

During the rape sequence, there are moments where Noé meditates on violence in general.  There's a possibility the tunnel splitting into two symbolizes the menstrual cycle, evolution, and biology, as shaped by loss and dissension into the unknown.  Noé labels the other side of the tunnel, realizing it as another class altogether, a new sexual orientation, gender, and a person.  In interviews, Noé's knowledge about Nietszche shows, as he studied philosophy before.  The rape scene provoked me because of the parallels made to the bedroom scene.  Marcus is positioned exactly like Le Tenia is during the rape, as his hand is over Alex's mouth so he can sleep.  In "The Rectum" sequence, the man Marcus attacks fights back, and he breaks his arm.  When Marcus is wakes up with Alex, his arm is asleep.  Parallels are common in "Irreversible", and Noe implicates everyone.  His view of the world is a bleak and unsparing one.

In a Noé interview, he says the book Alex is reading is "An Experiment With Time" by J.W. Dunne, "about a man who is noting dreams he has each morning, and coming to the conclusion eventually that 80 percent of the material came from the previous day, but between 10 and 20% was made of things that were going to happen the next day.  He developed a theory on how the brain creates the perception of time when time is already there, pre-existent".  When he wakes up, Alex tells Marcus her dream: the red tunnel where she'll be raped.  Ideas of pre-destination seem more Nietzschean than anything else I can think of.  When the person glances, I asked myself a number of questions: Was he scared?  Was he weak? Why was he watching and why were we watching along with him? Was he Pierre?  Thoughts like this culminate in philosophical fetishism, disregarding the filmmaker ethics for human instincts.  What the film does is portray life as it is, and saying you would try and help a complete stranger from being raped and beaten is the challenge.  What would you do?  This is a film that asks us questions, and like the character of Pierre, you never know what you will turn into when the time comes.

La Tenia is rich, but he uses wealth in an anti-progressive way.  Alex's progressive attitude refuses to fully come out beyond the sex scene towards the end.  La Tenia is wealthy yet still manages to fetishize wealth because he's surrounded by unstable energy, which he desperately wants to make part of his life.  His unstable energy can only be fulfilled by Alex, but in the fetishized world, Alex is the most free, unlike her friends.  She is the most innocent, but she is the victim.  The metaphor for moral guidance is a highlight; in the tunnel, lighting is important.  I uncovered more than I expected to with Noé's film, which is open to different interpretations and readings.  The tunnel splitting in half symbolizes many things.  Even if humans weaken, humans will continue to learn more and more as a race, further expanding.  When the film ends in the park, we immediately think of the premonition Alex had and of the mysterious notion that although premonition shows our fate, free will goes much deeper than fate and finds its way through unquestionable love.  Gaspar Noé's "Irreversible" is about life, fate, and the human experience.


- Trailers
- Two short videos: "Stress" and "Outrage".

VIDEO: 2.35:1 Anamorphic 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.No Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 - French (English Subtitles) 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.No Skull - Severed Cinema


Irreversible - "The Butcher"

Irreversible - "Slice and Dice Tranny"

Irreversible - "Pierre and Marcus"

Irreversible - "Hall of Disrepair "

Irreversible - "Meeting with Le Tenia"

Irreversible - "Stationary"

Irreversible - "Stationary 2"

Irreversible - "Irrefutable Damages"

Irreversible - "Get it in Yo' Face"

Irreversible - "Journey"

Irreversible - "Hitchin' a Ride"

Irreversible - "Vision of Perfection"

Irreversible - "Crumpled"

Irreversible - "Heavenly Morning"

Irreversible - "Heavenly Morning 2"

Irreversible - "Pre-Atrocity"

Irreversible - "Spun"

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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."