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:: Irreversible

It should be said at the outset that Irreversible might offend, or even outrage, some of the mainstream audience. There is an uncompromising sexual violation scene and a violently brutal scene that is rarely seen in film and they will attract much discussion. From a filmmaking point of view, however, it is structurally fascinating and the flow and placement of the hand-held camera work ensures the visual prowess. Director Gaspar Noe has a forceful presence in the way this devastating story is told.

The plot of the film is unfurled in reverse. It comes at you very hard with the dark eerie scenes inside a gay S&M club, where the characters descend into the depths of depravity. Noe’s camera catches the frightening glimpses of Marcus (Vincent Cassel) seeking out ‘Le Tenia’ (Jo Prestia) and we see Le Tenia’s brutal murder. He had viciously raped Alex (Monica Bellucci), a scene which caused Marcus and his best friend to set out for revenge. The rape scene occurs for about eight minutes of screen time. Noe’s camera was positioned just inches from the graphic incident, and the images will stay with anyone for a long time.

The film continues chronologically backwards in about eleven scenes, each comprising a single unbroken steadicam shot. Noe had placed an emotional impact on the audience straight up. We sense from the dialogue that one man has wronged another, but we have no proper understanding of why one man would savagely murder another, as we saw early on. Noe’s subversiveness then opens everything up.

The scenes that follow the assault are laced with tragedy and foresight. Watching the film can be a punishing feeling where, like an old-style horror film, you might have anticipated an act of violence at any stage. But then, as the film is structured in reverse, Noe provides his film with a “happy” ending.

Monica Bellucci does an amazing acting performance. But she is not just any actress. She always shows an engaging sensuality and her different senses throughout the film show an actress of true quality. Her character is violated and then her head is slammed into a pavement; scenes so graphic that it could be difficult to sit through for some people. But the film is worthy of being up to the challenge. The other main characters also give fine performances.

Irreversible is powerful and unforgettable. If you can stomach some of its ingredients, this unique venture by Noe demands to be seen from a terrific filmmaking perspective. It will stay in the memory for a long time.

Screening at the Lumiere Cinema.