“Irreversible” has the ability to make you appreciate and cherish your life, in part because it shows you how easily your happiness can be taken away. It is a film that will allow you to love those around you even more than you already do. Any film that can do all that is a masterpiece in my book.
Rape happens. It happens to someone, somewhere in the world, every minute of every day. To avert your eyes is to deny that it exists in your world. To turn away is to shirk responsibility. This film is truthful in its depiction of that horror and the feelings of vengeance that inevitably follow.
There will be those that are repulsed by this film, a film that can make ‘Requiem for a Dream’ seem like a little girl’s fairytale. If you are one of those who refuse to watch ‘Irreversible’ or one who watches and is offended… then you are living in a fake fairytale world of your own. This great French film is as brutally truthful and poignant as any in recent memory. It is one of the saddest films I have ever seen. And yet, because of it’s reverse chronology, the final scenes of blissful romanticism are some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking moments ever committed to the silver screen. This is a courageous and magnificent artistic achievement!
‘Irreversible’ unfolds backwards, much like 2001′s ‘Memento’. It’s not a gimmick… far from it. The film begins with the revenge beating of a suspected rapist. It is a savage and relentless scene that will make many squirm. It is as graphic and violent a scene as could be imagined, and at the end, you will feel like you were the one who had their skull crushed in. And because we have no real idea who these characters are, there is a sense that this is gratuitous and pointless violence.
Then we go back in time just a few minutes to the search for the rapist and watch as the frenzy of revenge consumes a man who is bent on justice for the rape of his girlfriend. The next scene is the rape itself. It is a soul-crushing scene of relentless intensity that seems to drag on forever. It makes the earlier beating scene seem rather tame and almost justified. And the film continues to track time in reverse to the beginning of a seemingly innocuous day filled with hope and love and tenderness. But of course, unlike the characters, we are painfully aware of what awaits them as the day unfolds. It is tear-inducingly sad to watch these people drift toward an irreversible destiny.
Monica Bellucci is astonishingly brave. This performance is as courageous and accomplished as Diane Lane’s role in last year’s thriller ‘Unfaithful’. She should be decorated with every award there is for her role as Alex. She is terrifyingly scared and desperately sympathetic in the rape scene… but her best work comes later in the film (earlier in the day) as she shares some tender moments with her lover (Cassel) and some funny moments with an ex-boyfriend. The final twenty minutes of the movie are all a showcase for her… a chance for her to show that she is capable of magnificent subtlety and tremendous range. The bedroom scene with Bellucci and her real life husband, Vincent Cassel, is as realistic and honest as you will ever see. There is no need for added sentiment or melodrama… only truth. Their interaction is spectacular in these moments.
‘Irreversible’ is a film about many things: The Relentlessness of Time; The Cruelty of Karma; The Inevitability of Destiny; The Natural Tendency of Revenge; The Randomness of Luck; The Sadness of Truth. I could go on and on. This film doesn’t give us convention. It says that sometimes bad things happen to good people. It shows that fortune sometimes smiles on evil (Try to remember every face you see!). The movie doesn’t perpetuate our need for fakery and fairytales. Bad things happen… but time will destroy that too.
As the film tells us more than once… “Time destroys everything.”
Director Gaspar Noé and his cast have created a great film… one that should be seen by everyone, especially those that don’t want to! This film has the ability to change you… and how many times can you say that about your typical fluffy Hollywood fairytale? This is a masterpiece!
I am sure that this film has reserved a place in my Top Ten list for 2003, and will easily entrench itself in my list of All Time Greats. I love this film.