The film opens with a brutal scene in which two men, Marcus and Pierre (Cassel and Dupontel), track down a guy in a gay S&M nightclub. They are dead-set on revenge and the ensuing scuffle is horrifically violent. The next scene takes place immediately beforehand, and so on, until we learn that this was revenge for the extremely brutal rape of Marcus' girlfriend Alex (Bellucci), who happens to be his best pal Pierre's ex. As we travel back through this evening, the film takes on a dramatic power that catches us completely off guard because we now know where this night is headed, while the characters obviously do not.
There is so much going on in this film, and it says so much about human interaction, that it's almost hard to believe that Noe's script was only a three-page outline of 12 scenes to be filmed in one continuous take each. He let the actors improvise each scene, and the result is amazing! The performances are shockingly real; the actors take the characters through a mind-boggling arc that is a serious gut-punch due to the reversed structure. We never imagine these vengeful thugs could evolve from such relaxed intimacy and humour. Meanwhile, Noe's camera is alive, breathing, spinning, prowling through each long take (the rape scene is particularly harrowing--10 minutes without a cut). Sometimes this movement obscures the action irritatingly, but mostly it catches the characters' internal feelings, drawing us into each scene so we can feel the violence, fear and warmth. Yes, we're completely unprepared for the scenes of light-hearted banter and naked sweetness that come toward the end of the film. This is virtuoso filmmaking that deserves to be seen, not censored.
dir-scr Gaspar Noe|
with Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Jo Prestia, Philippe Nahon, Stephane Drouot, Jean-Louis Costes, Mourad Khima, Gaspar Noe
release UK 31.Jan.03; US 7.Mar.03
Early evening. Alex and Marcus (Bellucci and Cassel) share a moment of honest tenderness before they head off to a party...
|"Sorry to be blunt, but you have to be utterly stupid to think this film is art. Any cynical director knows that if he puts utterly disgusting images in a film, then he'll probably get all sorts of gullible critics to rave about how daring his film is. It's a trend that is all-too predictable. That ordinary people can be brutalized, and strike out savagely in return, is the only point of Irreversible, one that been proved beyond doubt by real events like the Holocaust and the massacres in Rwanda and other places. I could write much more about this film, and the others of similar type in recent French cinema that receive most of their critical praise almost exclusively from their willingness to show explicit sex and violence, but shock value is not enough. Beyond these scenes, I've found there is really not much to these films. Last comment, just because the actors improvised brilliantly and are willing to do almost anything doesn't mean the film actually adds up to anything. When such dedication is paired with a director who is not just out to shock, like DeNiro in Scorsese's Raging Bull, then the result is truly art, not a so-called piece of 'virtuoso filmmaking' that Irreversible is supposed to be." --K Russell, Vancouver 27.Feb.03|