Irreversible is the most disturbing film I have ever seen which is why it earns itself 5 stars. As a piece of entertainment it suffers, I can't imagine anyone (aside from, perhaps, Jeffrey Dalmer) being actually entertained by this movie. I wouldn't actually recommend this movie, but as a piece of horror it engages, provokes and, essentially, horrifies. It imbeds itself in our minds, lingering there for long after the event. Like a car crash. I did not like the movie, but I could not deny its power. And it is also a masterfully made work, unlike many other exponents of shock cinema that have accrued classic status over the years, such as Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Wes Craven's Last House On The Left - which, in my opinion, are cheap looking and poorly acted exercises in gore.
Irreversible is a French film that takes the medium of shock to its ultimate extreme. It tells a rape/revenge story backwards beginning with the revenge~ a scene that physically repulsed me, so much so that I had to turn off the dvd to catch my breath. The scene takes place in a darkened, gay sex club (the rapist's hang-out), a fight breaks out, then a man (not even the rapist we find out later) has his face repeatedly bashed in by a fire extinguisher. Usually in a movie we catch a glimpse of the extreme violence and then the camera will cut to something else, allowing us some relief. In this movie we follow the attack straight through to its grisly end, each bash revealing a more caved in edifice of the human skull. The build up to this attack is also powerfully rendered , the environment of this club is so oppressive it could be lifted straight from Dante's Inferno. And the accompanying music is a deafening and nauseously repetitive hum.
Gasper Noe, the director behind the equally shocking, but frantically energetic Seul Contre Tous (I Stand Alone) about a ex-con butcher that kills his pregnant wife and ends up sleeping with his estranged daughter, has created an intriguing narrative device in Irreversible and attached the worst kind of tale imaginable, replete with a 9-minute rape sequence at the centre. This was never going to be Amelie.
Newspapers were up in arms about the extended rape scene in the deserted underpass, how could he justify it? How could this be entertainment? This film is clearly more of a political statement about violence and its repulsive nature, where there is no retribution, no winners. It doesn't use violence in the same tantalising (some would say irresponsible) way American movies do, the violence completely alienates us, backs us into a corner. The rape isn't eroticised, like the scene in Straw Dogs. It is horrible and viewed from a static, helpless vantage point. However, because Monica Belluci is one of the world's most beautiful women, Gasper Noe must realise that this will be viewed as erotica by some. She is also sexualised by the see-through dress she wears precipitating the event. Regardless of these arguments, one can understand where the director is coming from. Halfway into this scene of torture someone in the distance walks into the same underpass, hesitates, and then leaves. While watching this event that someone feels like us. To be frank, I had this on fast forward, it hardly needed to be endured to get the gist of what was going on.
Vincent Cassel and Belluci are both good as the doomed lovers, Marcus and Alex (doomed from the start, I might add), Albert Dupontel is terrific as their friend, Pierre. It is Pierre who acts as the stabilising element between them, only to explode. This revelation is more in hindsight, because of the films inverted timeline.
At least this film has a happy ending. That is, if you forget the first hour of it.
Watch this film if you want real life, Crimewatch UK horror. Personally, I don't. Give me Hammer's fangs and ketchup any day of the week, this film depressed me.