Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger
Starring: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Philippe Nahon, Jo Prestia
Director: Gaspar Noe
IRReVERSIBLE is an unusual film by anyone’s standards. Its method of storytelling is back to front, its style of camerawork is unsettling and its content is harsh and sets out to shock.
It begins at the last scene of the story and works its way backwards scene by scene so the end of each scene leads up to the beginning of the previous scene. Regular filmgoers will know of course that this is not so original as we saw this method used in the excellent film MEMENTO and with much better reason.
The style of camerawork used is purposefully unsettling as at first it uses a shaky hand held technique lit using mainly existing light to achieve a confused claustrophobic atmosphere. It goes on to employ other disconcerting methods such as a swirling camera and strobing.
The story is simple. Alex (Monica Bellucci) is in a relationship with Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and has previously been in a relationship with his best friend Pierre (Albert Dupontel). They are still close and go to a party together in a seedy district. After a disagreement Alex leaves the party and tries unsuccessfully to get a taxi home. She decides to start walking, can’t cross the busy road so uses a dirty, narrow subway tunnel to cross under the road. She witnesses a violent argument between a man and a woman in the tunnel and for some reason stops in horror. The man notices her and turns on her, assaulting her then violently raping her. He hates women especially classy ones so he then savagely beats her leaving her in a coma. When Marcus and Pierre find out what has happened they seek revenge and track down her assailant in a gay bar where in a fit of rage they kill him.
The rape scene is very long and difficult to watch. Every method is employed to make what is going on screen as shocking as possible. It is anal rape; Alex is viciously punched in the face and then her head pounded into the pavement. The killing of the assailant at the end of the story but the beginning of the film is explicit and very violent. It turns out Alex is pregnant. At the end of the film a swirling camera shot is used to disorientate the viewer and the film closes with strobing white light with no other purpose than to make the viewer look into the strobe to make them feel sick. Look into any strobe long enough and you will feel sick – it’s basic science.
Any decent person knows that the horrors that take place in this film are sickening. To employ cheap camera tricks to sicken the audience is unnecessary especially when the content of the picture is repulsive anyway. Seeing someone’s head caved in is revolting and seeing any kind of rape is disturbing as is watching a woman explicitly beaten.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not against showing violence or sex in films as long as there is a reason and it’s even remotely justified in the story but in IRReVERSIBLE the only story is the violence and the only reason for the film is to create a sickening feeling in the viewer.
This is a cheap shot at creating a film, which will gain adverse publicity so making people curious to see a controversial film. Monica Bellucci is worth a lot more as an actress than to appear in this film, as are the other actors.
If you want to be made to feel sick eat too much junk food and go on a cheap fairground ride with your friends. At least you can have a laugh and it’s over fairly quickly.
If this film is trying to tell you anything it’s don’t use subway tunnels to cross busy roads – you are safer dodging traffic! But anyone could have told you that well-known fact.