Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gaspar Noé|
|Written by||Gaspar Noé|
|Music by||Thomas Bangalter|
|Edited by||Gaspar Noé|
|Distributed by||Mars Distribution|
|Box office||€5.8 million|
Irréversible (French pronunciation: [iʁevɛʁsibl]) is a 2002 French psychological thriller drama film, written and directed by Gaspar Noé and starring Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel. The film employs a reverse chronology and follows two men through the streets of Paris as they seek to avenge a brutally raped girlfriend. The film's soundtrack was composed by Thomas Bangalter, one half of the electronic music duo Daft Punk.
Irréversible has been associated with a series of films defined as the cinéma du corps ("cinema of the body"), which according to Palmer share affinities with certain avant-garde productions: an attenuated use of narrative, assaulting and often illegible cinematography, confrontational subject material, and a pervasive sense of social nihilism or despair. Irréversible has also been associated with the New French Extremity movement.
The film was particularly controversial upon its release for its graphic portrayal of violence, specifically the scene where a man is savagely bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher and its 10-minute long take rape of Alex (Monica Bellucci), who is then brutally beaten into a coma. It had accusations of apparent homophobia as well. American film critic Roger Ebert called Irréversible "a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable".
Irréversible contains twelve scenes presented in reverse chronological order. They are arranged here in chronological order.
1: An Italian woman living in France named Alex (Monica Bellucci) is reading An Experiment with Time by J. W. Dunne in a park, surrounded by playing children. Beethoven's 7th Symphony is heard in the background. The camera spins around faster and faster until it blacks out into a strobe effect, accompanied by a pulsing, roaring sound. A rapidly spinning image of a lawn sprinkler resembling the cosmos can be dimly perceived. A title card reads: "Le Temps Detruit Tout" ("Time destroys everything") – a phrase uttered in the film's first scene. The film ends.
3: Alex lies in bed with Marcus (Vincent Cassel) after having sex. Alex reveals she might be pregnant, and Marcus is pleased with the possibility. They prepare to go to a party, and Marcus leaves to buy wine. Alex takes a shower, then uses a home pregnancy test that confirms she is pregnant. She is elated. At a nearby Paris Métro station and aboard a subway train, Alex, Marcus and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) are on their way to a party. They discuss sex, and Pierre refers to the fact that he and Alex were once dating, but are no longer in a relationship. He implies that Marcus stole Alex from him.
4: Alex, Marcus, and Pierre have arrived at the party. Alex is annoyed by Marcus's unrestrained use of drugs and alcohol and his flirtatious behavior with other women, and consequently decides to leave the party alone.
5: On her way home, Alex sees a pimp called "Le Tenia" ("The Tapeworm") (Jo Prestia) beating a transsexual prostitute named Concha (Jaramillo) in a pedestrian underpass. Once the man sees Alex, he releases Concha and turns his attention to Alex, who attempts to flee, but Le Tenia catches her and threatens her with a knife. Le Tenia pins Alex to the ground and anally rapes her for several minutes of screentime, after which he brutally beats her into unconsciousness.
6: Marcus and Pierre leave the party and encounter commotion on the street. Marcus wails as he discovers Alex's bloodied body being wheeled on a stretcher into an ambulance by paramedics.
7: Alex is hospitalized and revealed to be comatose. Marcus and Pierre are questioned by the police. They then talk to a street thug named Mourad (Mourad Khima) and his friend Layde (Hellal). The two gangsters promise, if they get paid, to help them find the rapist, who Mourad claims is Le Tenia. Marcus and Pierre go looking for the man who raped Alex. Marcus is still high on drugs and very agitated.
8: The men track down Concha, Le Tenia's last victim. At first, she refuses to talk to them. After Marcus threatens to slash her with a piece of broken glass, she identifies Le Tenia as the rapist and says he can be found at a gay BDSM nightclub called The Rectum. They are soon chased by angry sex workers seeking to defend Concha. Mourad and Layde run in a separate direction.
9: Marcus and Pierre hail a taxi. Following a row, Marcus assaults the taxi driver and steals the car.
10: Marcus and Pierre go to The Rectum, but do not know what Le Tenia looks like. Marcus finds Le Tenia standing with another man. Thinking the other man is Le Tenia, he assaults him, but the man wrestles Marcus to the ground, breaks Marcus's arm, and attempts to rape Marcus on the club floor. Pierre defends Marcus by using a fire extinguisher to crush the man's skull, thus killing him.
11: Police arrest Pierre and put him in handcuffs. An ambulance arrives, and Marcus is put on a stretcher and taken from the club. Outside, Mourad and Layde shout insults at Pierre and Marcus. The murdered man is revealed not to be Le Tenia after all. Rather, the man standing next to him in the club was the real Le Tenia.
12: Across the street in a small apartment, two men are talking about sex. One of them is "the Butcher", the protagonist of Noé's previous film, I Stand Alone. In a drunken monologue, the Butcher reveals that he was arrested for having sex with his own daughter. The subject of their discussion shifts to the commotion in the streets outside. Without looking out the window, they derisively attribute the commotion to the patrons of The Rectum. Outside, Mourad is seen talking to a police officer.
- Monica Bellucci as Alex
- Vincent Cassel as Marcus
- Albert Dupontel as Pierre
- Jo Prestia as Le Tenia
- Fatima Adoum as Fatima
- Mourad Khima as Mourad
- Hellal as Layde
- Jaramillo as Concha
- Michel Gondoin as Mick
- Jean-Louis Costes as Fistman
- Philippe Nahon as the man (The Butcher)
- Stéphane Drouot as Butcher's friend
- Stéphane Derdérian and Gaspar Noé as Rectum Visitors
Irréversible was shot using a widescreen lightweight Minima Super16 mm camera. The film consists of about a dozen apparently unbroken shots melded together from hundreds of shots. This included a 9-minute-long rape and sodomy scene, portrayed in a single, unbroken shot. Computer-generated imagery was used in post-production for the penis in the rape scene. Another example is the scene where Pierre beats up a man's face and skull to pulp. CGI was used to augment the results, as initial footage using a conventional latex dummy proved unconvincing. During sixty minutes of its running time, the film uses extremely low-frequency sound to create a state of nausea and anxiety in the audience.
The film premiered in France on 22 May 2002 through Mars Distribution. It competed at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. It was released in the United Kingdom on 31 January 2003 through Metro Tartan Distribution, and the United States on 7 March 2003 through Lions Gate Films. Audience reactions to both the rape scene and the murder scene have ranged from appreciation of their artistic merits to leaving the theater in disgust. Newsweek's Ansen stated that "If outraged viewers (mostly women) at the Cannes Film Festival are any indication, this will be the most walked-out-of movie of 2003." In the same review, Ansen suggested that the film displayed "an adolescent pride in its own ugliness".
Critical response to the film was divided with critics panning the film and others considering it one of the year's best. As of 2011, it held a "rotten" score of 57% positive verdict from 120 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.7/10, and the website's consensus stating: "Though well-filmed, Irreversible feels gratuitous in its extreme violence." The American film critic Roger Ebert argued that the film's structure makes it inherently moral; that by presenting vengeance before the acts that inspire it, we are forced to process the vengeance first, and therefore think more deeply about its implications.
Irréversible won the top award, the Bronze Horse for best film, at the 2002 Stockholm International Film Festival. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Award by the Film Critics Circle of Australia. It was voted Best Foreign Language Film by the San Diego Film Critics Society, tied with The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares). It grossed $792,200 from theatrical screenings.
Film critic David Edelstein argues that "Irréversible might be the most homophobic movie ever made." Noé's depiction of gay criminal Le Tenia inexplicably raping the female lead, Alex, remains the film's most controversial image. In his defense, Noé has stated, "I'm not homophobic", further stating that "I also appear in Irréversible, masturbating at the gay club", as a means of showing that "I didn't feel superior to gays."
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