Irréversible Irreversible Gaspar Noé 2002 FranceWhen his girlfriend is raped at a party, a teacher and his friend hunt down the rapist at a gay nightclub.What begins as a brutally, disturbingly violent film turns out to be a calmly, gently uplifting one - but for the fact the narrative order is reversed (or is it?). Noé films in long-takes, with his camera in constant movement, swirling and disorientating; the pivotal moment is the rape scene, for which the camera finally settles on one axis, and shows us the shocking incident with an unflinching gaze, the one time we'd prefer to move elsewhere. The use of sound is fantastic: the whirring low frequency bass in the earlier scenes in the gay nightclub, and the deep passing of cars over the subway, while Belucci screams for her life over the sound of the fleshy friction of her rape.
I've only seen it once, which was enough- not for the quality but the content, which i'm sure you'll understand. I was very surprised it had such a rough ride at Cannes, as i certainly didn't find it exploitative or glamourising violence. Far from it. It took on extra emotionally painful meanings by its reverse structure, and tried some quite innovative and impressive visual effects. Absolutely not for the squeamish, but not one of those silly childish films that assault us with sickly events for juvenile shock value. Having felt well disposed to Monica Bellucci in the film (or i should say i felt for and fancied her), i was surprised to find her adopt something of a self-conscious, "mustn't ruffle my beautiful face" sort of attitude on a French TV programme where everyone else was having a good time. Or perhaps it was simply an aloof performance by an unusually intelligent star?
For those 'interested' in Irréversible, I recommend The Great Ecstacy of Robert Carmichael, a British debut film by Thomas Clay, 26 year old director. I interviewed him about the film at the International Film Festival Rotterdam last week.
Whereas I remember Irréversible to be a somewhat morbid way to tell a story of universal themes like 'you can't turn back time' and ends in melancholy, Carmichael is much more a political statement. What now, you wonder, is the comparison?
- POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD - (though not considered such by the director, nor the festival)
Well, like the French film, this has a very graphic portrayal of a rape. A gang rape, this time, and not uncut in a French tunnel (which adds to the realism I think), but in an abstract manner yet with much more depth behind the actual act itself.
The synopsis of the film isn't extraordinary. It basically tells of youth in a small English coastal town going from bad to worse while taking drugs and robbing people. You know now how worse.
Every further word said about the film is a word said too much. As debut films come, this is very well made, but above all daring because of the social critic that thrives it. It debuted at Cannes 2005 (talk about a debut for a debut filmer!) and is still touring the festivals, not even opening in England in a month or two. When it eventually does get a proper release, try to see it and make up for yourself wether Clay has made a right judgement or not.
Irreversible (2002/Noé) While it may not really please a viewer searching for a resounding moral or emotional message, anyone who considers themselves a partaker of the art of filmmaking or a fan of its technicalities will be amazed. Capo mentioned the swirling camera work, which during the viewing process had boggled my mind, although some of this bewilderment was cleared up by imdb trivia. The use of color, the use of sound, the 15 minute takes (which I had concluded were digitally edited together in post-production, but masterfully so), the acting, etc. This is most definitely a film that induces superlative-laden gushing in any reviewer. Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic.
Taking one of your favorite films for argument, do we need to know the social conditions that led to the rape(event) in Irreversible, or a detailed analysis of the effects(implication) of rape on women in general or a detailed study of the social conditions (motivation) that made that one particular guy in the subway to commit rape, and so on?
It's funny you mention this; I watched this again three nights ago.
I think it's an excellent film. As an involving and affecting (often against the viewer's will, it seems) horror film, it's unsurpassed. It's a film about the physical suffocation of the moment and the more abstract suffocation of time; the former in the tight framing and the latter in the actual length of the sequences and scenes, and also in the backwards unfolding narrative, which traps the characters from the outset (their story 'birth' is unbearable).
I love how time itself becomes an issue, in the way the rape becomes either unwatchable or numbing or both, due to the sheer length of it, and the fact that the camera draws our attention to the fact we're watching an artificial construct (simply by "being there", static, in stark contrast to its previous swirling). The notion that "time destroys everything" is confidently articulated on Noé's part, if something of a truism to me. And the suggestion of an actually linear narrative, of a dream (or an "ultimate trip", as the Kubrick poster announces), lends a certain, rich ambiguity to things, and also makes the final images of children dancing over a water spring so heartbreakingly hopeful. (The final final image is of the Milky Way, over the fast strobe effect. What do people make of this?)
Is this a film about rape? Or about evil? I'm not sure. The "futility of vengeance" seems more likely. Or the limits of friendship in the heat of an unthinkable moment; Noé started out with the project wanting to depict a real relationship - hence why Cassel and Belucci were cast - and it grew from there.
The rapid descension into this utterly depraved world, and the way in which Pierre and Marcus end up at the mercy of their own "inner destruction" (Marcus due to drugs and vengeance, seemingly, Pierre due to something more self-hating, and both because of their love for Alex) is convincing. The nihilism of the film is a bit hysterical, though. The moment when the passerby enters the subway during the rape, only to walk out again: it still sends chills down my spine, and if it embodies Noé's vision of humanity, fair enough (it probably came close to embodying mine, at one point), but it steers the film's entire worldview beyond despair, into a very cynical and angry outlook that might even penetrate the viewer.
It's not a masterpiece, but it's formally seductive and rich enough for me to still like it very, very much.