Irréversible

Irréversible is a 2002 movie by Gaspar Noé.

<spoiler warning>
C’mon! This movie’s from 2002. You’ve had your chance.
</spoiler warning>

<another warning>
This movie is not for the timid. It’s really violent. I was shuddering for days afterwards. The guy who told me about this movie described Gaspar Noé as a “really sick f*ck”. It’s tough to argue that point.
</another warning>

<another another warning>
This movie is in French with subtitles. I didn’t mind but some folks do.
</another another warning>

The overall plot is fairly standard. A lovely girl is shown, she has a loving boyfriend and friends, she’s happy. The girl is savagely brutalized. Her friends chase after the bad guy. The friends savagely brutalize the bad guy and get sent to prison where they’ll probably get savagely brutalized.

The reason that Irréversible is different is that Noé shows the scenes in reverse order. The movie opens with the friends in the paddy wagon, then they’re savagely brutalizing the bad guy, then they’re hunting the bad guy, etc.

The rape scene was awful. From the context, I knew it was coming but it still shocked me. It never seemed to end. I looked it up afterwards and found that it was 12 minutes long.

After the rape scene, the girl and her friends are chatting in the lobby of an apartment building as if nothing had happened. This is because it hasn’t yet. The audience knows what’s going to happen because they’ve just seen it but are watching helplessly as the characters move toward their awful conclusion.

The rest of the movie is like that. The audience is left wringing its hands as they see more of this girl’s life while they know what happens to her. They see how she’s a wonderful person who’d thought that her life was in front of her.

At the end, the girl is lying on a picnic blanket in a park, reading a book. It’s an aerial shot that slowly pulls back and up. There is beautiful music playing and the credits start to roll by.

The reversal seemed like a cheap gimmick at first. That changed for me after the savagely brutal rape scene. Usually, a movie with this kind of plot is about whoever is getting revenge/justice and the victim is almost an incidental character. Played this way though, the story is all about the victim and the agents of revenge/justice are supporting characters.

After the movie was done, I was left feeling exhausted and sad and awful. It took about a week to shake that off.


BTW, the beautiful music at the end was the opening to the second movement of Beethoven’s  7th symphony. I really love it. It still makes me feel exhausted and sad and awful though.

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