Irreversible (2002)

Begins with a place called “The Rectum” and ends with the shot of the poster from ‘2001’. Sums up this movie pretty well.

When a woman (Monica Bellucci) is brutally violated, her angered boyfriend (Vincent Cassel) and ex-boyfriend (Albert Dupontel) team up to track down the rapist and take justice into their own hands.

After hearing about how damn traumatizing this flick is for over 3 years now, I finally found the time, the place, and the right mood to actually just sit-down and try to “enjoy” it but in the end, I ended up just liking it without ever really throwing up. However, there were a couple of close calls.

The plot seems very simple and actually generic but what really throws everybody for a loop is that it’s all told backwards. No, not in the way ‘Memento’ was but more of showing us what happens from the after-math to the lead-up. It’s not as confusing as it may sound and I think that’s a real showing of writer/director Gaspar Noe‘s talents.

I have never seen any of Noe’s other flicks but from what I hear, they’re almost just as bad as this one but what really got me into this flick was the fact that it is shot perfectly and dare I say it, beautifully. The camera feels like it’s constantly just moving, zooming, and swaying all-over-the-place as if Noe was given the camera after a nice little sitting during Happy Hour. The camera barely ever rests easy (except for the infamous rape scene) and the whole frenetic style really got to me after awhile and took me to this place where I never ever wanted to go. It also helped that this is a very dark flick but the colors they use to pop-out at us, work in such a disturbing way. I also love films that feature one-shots and this has a ton of them but since the story is going backwards, the camera actually never cuts away and feels more like one, long, uninterrupted shot. Definitely couldn’t have been an easy thing to pull of but somehow this Noe guy makes it seem possible.

Also, I think the way that Noe chose to tell this story, was a pretty brilliant idea. First of all, he shows us what happens after this revenge takes place but he also allows us to see through reverse chronological order that maybe this revenge was meant to happen after all this time. I don’t want to say that it was obvious that this flick was trying to show this in a way, but instead of just plopping us in the middle of a story, with characters we don’t know or even like for that matter, Noe actually lets us get to see them before and after the terrible event that takes place.

Still though, no matter how much you can at least praise Noe here for his technical side, you still can’t get past the fact that the two scenes here are pretty effed up and stay in your mind for a very long-ass period of time. The infamous rape and murder scenes here are some of the hardest that I have ever had to watch because the camera never once pans away from it. Hell, the rape scene goes on for 9 minutes and in just one single take! It also doesn’t help that about 20 minutes into the flick, the murder happens as we see some dude’s head bashed right in. However, me saying all of this won’t make a difference in how you view these scenes anyway. They are both effed up, hard to watch, and ones that will probably stick in your head forever and even though they sort of felt germane to the whole story, I kind of want to know, what was the point?

The story is shown in a way that works and makes you think about these characters but its the story itself and the fact that it has a brutal rape and murder scene is what bothers me the most. I get that Noe was probably looking for a way to shock the hell out of whoever went out to go see this (which he succeeded with) but what I don’t get is what are they here to even tell us? Is he disputing the ideas of revenge as to when they should, or should not be used? Is he showing us how fate can sometimes grab us by the ass and rape it? Or is he just showing us a glimpse into the lives of people that just had bad luck after all? I don’t know what this story was supposed to tell us and I don’t really think Noe knows either. He just wanted to make people vomit and run away disgusted, which is something he may have done to everybody else but certainly not me! Muwuahahahahahahaha! That was supposed to be my evil laugh.

The performances here given by Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel are all very good pretty much for the reason that they are put through some mighty-hard shit in the first place. All play their respective roles with realism because they all have to show a lot, go through a lot, and change their whole emotions when a tragedy comes through and it’s what made this film feel legitimate as well. It also probably helped that Cassel and Bellucci were going out at the time (and married now), so whenever they were on screen together, they felt like a real couple that actually did love each other.

Consensus: Even though the violent matter of this flick may take most heads away from it’s overall enjoyment level, Irreversible is still a grueling flick with a wonderful and innovative style that not only takes us to dark and scary places, but also gets inside your head just a little bit. Still, can’t say that I recommend it to anyone nor can I say that it’s a film that I’ll want to watch it again.



  1. Definitely worth more than a 6 in my opinion. I saw it years ago on DVD, and I think I gave it 8 or 9. Can’t remember if it was subtitled or not. I think seeing Monican Belluci nude in certain parts later on was good. Hate to admit it, but I like violence in movies. The fire extinguisher scene was so epic, the SFX were great. There’s a documentry on the DVD how they did it. As for the rape scene, some of that really turned me on. Hearing Monica moan with pleasure was great. Unfortunately, I think movies like this need to tell a memorable story – that way they deserve to be popular down the track.

  2. I’d second the previous comment, should be higher but understandably I can see why you’d give it a 6. As a piece of cinema I think it’s one of the more fascinating films of the last 10 years (in the same mould in Memento). As a film I doubt I’d want to watch it again, but it’s a film that should be seen, if not necesarily enjoyed

  3. Great review, Dan! I felt the exact same way. Difficult to watch, but mesmerizing and technically intoxicating. Cassel is amazing in this! But, yes, not sure if I’d want to watch it again. The rape scene in particular is probably one of the worst things I’ve watched on celluloid.

  4. The director has admitted that the real reason he made this film was to try to irritate as many people as possible, not just with the several minutes long rape scene, but with the camera movements, and even a sound tone that is supposed to be irritating running through the film. I saw this film before I knew any of those things. The director succeeded with me. This is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen A LOT).

  5. I’d give this film a 10/10 – I think it is one of the most brutally honest films I’ve ever seen, and hauntingly beautiful in a way that no other film is. But it’s also polarizing, which makes all of your points very valid.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but Noé plays an inaudible audio track during the Rectum scene that can actually make people nauseous. It produces the same sound as an earthquake, which is nuts.

    Either way, I enjoyed your review. It’s a very difficult film it write about, I think.

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