Monday, March 28, 2011


"An integrated work whose form clearly mirrors its content."

"Noe's summation is an ideological sucker-punch from a filmmaker who gets off on abusive relationships."
-Wesley Morris, BOSTON GLOBE

"Is there a point to this spew, a cry against the mongrel violence of men? Or is Noe merely a sadist who enjoys inflicting ugly, pitiless images on his audience?"

One of the most controversial and infamous films, IRREVERSIBLE continues Gaspar Noe's attempts to alienate his audience.  Based on the premise that 'time destroys everything,' IRREVERSIBLE employs a backward narration that reimagines the genre of the rape-revenge film.  Combining images and sounds that irritate and trouble, Noe assaults the spectator.  Now a cult film, its original release united debates over its sexual violence, censorship, and artistic expression.

Suggested Secondary Screenings:  5x2 (Francois Ozon, 2004) and MEMENTO (Christopher Nolan, 2000)


  1. Horrifying, beautiful, disgusting, brilliant. All words that were running through my mind as I viewed Gaspar Noe's "Irreversible". A film drenched in blood and violence, it leaves you haunted long after the final frame is shown. The first time I heard of "Irreversible" was back in 2005 when I first began to listen to the electronic duo Daft Punk. Thomas Bangalter, one half of the group, wrote and produced all of the music in the film. From what I knew about it, was that it contained an intense rape scene that sparked a lot of controversy. Every now and then I would hear about the film on top ten list concerning controversial films. A revenge story told backwards, "Irreversible" plays itself much like the film "Memento" but contains far more spectacular imagery.
    After seeing Noe's previous two films, one can imagine there is a definite connection between all of them. The Butcher character makes a cameo at the beginning(end) of the film which Noe seems to use as a way of telling the audience the final ending of that characters journey. The visual style of the film directly connects to "Enter the Void", which brings me to my next subject. I interpreted the ending of the film in two ways. One, it was all a dream within Alex's mind, and two, it was the unborn child of Alex that witnessed the entire events of the film as it floated in the afterlife. I believed it was a dream since Alex awakes at one point with her lover and describes having a dream about a red tunnel that splits in two, the exact description of the underpass in which she is raped. What supports this theory is how during all of the events of the film before that moment, the camera was moving erratically, presenting a dream like state. In this theory, Noe would then regard The Butcher as merely a character in a film and not part of a different universe, since Alex created him in her dream.


    For my second theory, in which it was Alex's unborn child viewing the events of the film in the afterlife, most of my argument for this comes from the film "Enter the Void". *WARNING SPOILERS* In "Enter the Void", the character Alex is shot and killed in a Tokyo bathroom and then lives on in the afterlife observing the human world. He sees both past, present, and future events, which correlates to the events that a soul experiences in the afterlife in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. These souls watch over the human world until they find a way to reincarnate themselves or decide to move on into a higher plain of existence. The souls pass through lights in order to bend time to their will and experiencing events of the human world. Much like the camera movement in "Enter the Void", in "Irreversible" the camera floats around and moves in and away from people and locations and floats into lights. In "Enter the Void", the camera was supposed to be the perspective Alex, in "Irreversible" the cameras perspective is the unborn child of Alex viewing the past, present, and future events that occur in the film. At the end of the film in which the camera floats into the sky and a strobe effect is added while images of what appears to be space moves in the background slightly, the unborn child is choosing not to be reincarnated but rather to move on into a higher plain of existence, abandoning the cruel world of the film.
    This film I believe is brilliant in the way it was written and shown to the audience. The fact that we question a brutal murder to a scum human being really shocked me. One of the most incredible moments in the film occurred during the rape scene, in which La Tenia is about to penetrate Alex and in the distance we can see a blurred human being looking at the situation. This unnamed figure observes what is happening, hears Alex's pleas for help, and chooses to just turn around and leave. It was a punch in the gut and really shows Noe's understanding of how pitiful humanity can be. Noe has solidified his artistry and brilliance to me, and certainly belongs on the list of greatest directors of all time. Bravo Noe, bravo.

  3. Well, I just wrote a great posting but for whatever reason blogspot decided it couldn't process my request, so I'm going to attempt to regain my patience and type something, though I can't promise it will be as insightful and gut reaction-y as my last post was.
    I really loved this film, and I know this is really not the type of film that you're supposed to love but I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a brilliantly constructed film. The camera work is exciting and thoughtful, framing the narrative perfectly. I love that it does the twisting and spinning and craziness only up to the rape, where it then stops and stares. It doesn't try to get a better look, it doesn't look away, it just watches on, forcing the audience to share its perspective as a brutal, realistic rape occurs on screen. The rape scene for me is so visceral and real, much more so than rape scenes in most movies. I feel like so often in movies the rapist hops on his victim, gives a few humps and then runs away. This feels so real because clearly a man that is hopped up on however man drugs this guy is on would take a while to finish. And then the man that wanders in in the background. GENIUS. It is illogical that no one would have used that underpass during that length of time, especially when it has been deemed the safer route (yeah okay, thanks prostitute lady). It is also illogical to assume the average individual is going to interfere in a brutal rape like that. The general human gut reaction is to run away and Noe points out this human weakness in such a simple, subtle way.
    Speaking of subtleties, the last scene I'll mention is the train scene, which earned a spot as one of my favorite dialogue scenes in a film. Their conversation progresses so naturally, so simply and so sincerely. It's pretty deep stuff, but it's all delivered so honestly and so matter of factly that you don't get lost in trying to find a deeper meaning--it simply is what it is. The fact that it then so terribly related to the rape in the tunnel makes it hauntingly sad, but makes what she's saying no less poignant and beautiful.
    Noe has definitely won me over. I mean, I already loved I Stand Alone, but now I can't wait for Enter the Void.

  4. Irreversible

    I am very confused about what I just watched. I did not understand the ending at all, but for some reason I still enjoyed the film. I liked the way that the story was told, because by telling it backwards all of the horrible stuff happened first and that was out of the way fairly early, and then the beginning of the night was portrayed which was the happy part of the film, so I am not completely emotionally drained as I would be had it been shown in order.

    For the film I would like to start out by saying that the rape scene was way too long. I could not handle that long of something so traumatic. I mean it was disgusting the way she was being raped and I know this is extreme cinema, but I really do feel that the director and editor went a little too far holding onto the scene for that long. I really feel that even if that scene had been shorter it would have had just as much dramatic effect without leaving the audience feeling sick to their stomach.

    One thing I did like was the camera work, because it really drew me into the film. I did not like it at first but then I started to really get into it and I realized that it was working. Because you cannot see all of the action it forces you to pay attention to everything the frame is divulging. Also, it made the audience uneasy which set p for what was happening through out the film. The story was dramatic and painful to watch and the camera work was able to push the audience over the edge, because they wanted so badly to see the whole frame and figure out why this man was so angry, but they couldn’t and that put everyone on the edge of their seats.

    I did not understand the space odyssey poster at the end. I thought it was completely out of place, but maybe that is because I don’t really know what that movie is about nor have I ever seen it so maybe that is why I did not understand the reference. Another thing is when she got the result of her pregnancy and the director did not tell the audience what the result was I liked that because I could not read her age so she could have been happy with either result. I kind of hope that she was not pregnant, because I am sure she would have lost the baby in the rape and that would have added a whole new level of trauma to this woman’s life.

    Through out the film I was feeling all different kinds of emotions, and as lame as this must sound I really think I went on an emotional journey in watching this film. the director, actors, editor everyone really made this film work, and I think it is because everyone was so strong that it worked out.

  5. I really enjoyed Irreversible. I think the most significant reading to me was on the quote "time destroys all things". In this sense, if the movie was played backwards, time would ruin this happy, normal scenario. The relationship between Alex and Marcus collapses, she is raped, and then Marcus goes mad and eventually the passive, philosopher Pierre even acts out beating the shit out of the wrong and in this case "innocent" man. In another notion, playing it in reverse, the violence and the memory or pain of that violence dims with time. No one lives forever in mourning. Both explorations of this quote are sad in their own way.

    The cinematic work was impressive in representing the emotions of the characters visually. Was it annoying? Yes. But meaningful. Starting with the credits rolling in reverse and then turning was very cool. The sound and chaotic, fluid camera was very off putting but for a reason and then only lets the trapped, static rape scene more powerful.

    The foreshadowing with their romantic scene in the beginning (near the end) was very tasteful as well. He couldn't feel his arm, wants to fuck in the ass, the playful force and spitting. The only thing that put me out of the movie a bit was their train conversation. I just didn't find that awkward situation and conversation believable especially to last that long. It was too personal for not being that close with Marcus and still harboring feelings for Alex.

    We talked in class how this was not all that disgusting but I don't believe Noe ever goes for pure shock value. this film was artistic, and skilled with dark and gruesome themes and images. The head bashing the arm breaking, the splices of porn, "fist me" and the brutal rape were enough to put this film right in this trend of extreme french films, not gore films.

  6. I really liked the film overall, and yet was extremely horrified by it at the same time. I thought the invisible digital editing was an incredible effect. I read after viewing the film that Noe employs a low frequency sound to make the audience uncomfortable for the first 30 minutes, including the rape scene. I did not notice during the film, but he definitely accomplished his goal. The reverse chronological order was interesting because instead of being a happy movie that gets very, very grim, it is a very grim movie that becomes very happy. For example Alex discovering that she is pregnant and both her and Marcus being elated about it. If he had shown the film in chronological order it would be unwatchable in my opinion. I did not understand the ending with the strobing lights and eery sounds. I also thought that it ran on a little too long especially because the tone of the film does a complete 180. This was probably my favorite film of the semester. The camera movement and editing were mind blowing.

  7. Irreversible was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It is definitely an incredible movie, and those that are offended are more than justified, but those that think the movie is worthless trash obviously were not watching the movie.

    I guess the first thing to say is, Gaspar Noe has balls. It takes courage to throw people’s expectations of what a film should be, throw them out of the window (literally) and do the film he wants to do. It also takes courage to think up and film the rape and the scene in Rectum. I have enormous respect for him. Oh, and to those who criticize him for not actually doing long takes, but digitally patching them together, why do you care so much. Film, as its final product is less about technically how you did it, and more about the image that you see on the screen. It also takes away credit from the brilliant cgi and special effects work in the film. Many people would probably barely notice that their was any cgi in the film, at least I didn’t.

    I think that his comment that “time destroys all things” is extremely interesting. I think that it refers to how you watch the second half of the movie after you have watched the first. If you played the film forwards, you would get some tender moments and then a whole lot of awful. Now, because the awful has gone first, it actually soils the other moments to some extent. The scene in the bedroom between Cassel and Bellucci would seem nice if you went through the film forwards, but backwards, knowing what’s going to happen makes it very uncomfortable.

    Of course I think that points to another thing that Noe was aiming for. We end up seeing that there is this incredible fine line between love and violence. Also, its one of those films that shows the extent that otherwise good people can go to when pushed enough. I also loved the ending with her on the grass and the spinning and then the flashes with the universe in the background.

    There are also many ways to take this film. Is the first half the weird dream Bellucci was talking about at one point. Probably not, but we wish it was because that would save her, and absolve the others of the actions that they make. Still, if one wanted to be happy they could think that. Unfortunately, either way, they have still seen the most intense rape scene I have ever seen and have visited Rectum, and there is no way you are ever forgetting that.

  8. I can honestly say that this is my favorite film of the semester so far. Noe proves he is truly talented, and showing Irreversible in the same week with Baise Moi only further shows the poor quality of the latter film. I feel that because of Noe's complete understanding of the rules of filmmaking, he is allowed to break them. For instance, the cinematography wasn't just a man swiveling a camera around, it is clear that every directional shift was part of a beautifully choreographed danced created to keep the audience on edge. Meanwhile, the most intimate scenes are expressed the a sickeningly stationary camera that refuses to let the audience look away. The backwards storytelling reminds the audience just how quickly a person's life can change. Film's like this And Fat Girl have made me more cautious about my daily activities, I no longer fall asleep at rest stops or walk home alone at night (thanks Trae).
    Irreversible proves just how far a director can manipulate the camera and what the audience sees. There are masterful performances from both Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci. That ten minute rape scene is definitely one of the most intense things we have ever watched in this class, even more so than anything witnessed in In My Skin. I felt physically ill watching that scene, which has not happened to me during any of he other films. Unfortunately, I don't think this film could ever be made in the States, it is too raw and too smart for the common American moviegoer to really appreciate it.

  9. God, this film! As difficult as it is to sit through, there’s something about it that’s hard to ignore. Beyond the obvious in-your-face tactics like the camera movement and the sound, it’s gripping just in story. I love the backwards storyline, I really do think that if it were told chronologically, not entirely sure if I would have the same clout and impact. That final shot is really depressing in retrospect, and that scene in which Bellucci and Cassel’s character are fooling around in the bedroom is so devastating to watch because we saw everything before. Arrgh, it’s so depressing to think about it, especially when there are all those moments that could be construed as inappropriate but are actually loving gestures between the two.

    The only thing I’m gonna say about the rape scene is that I cried, flat out, there, I said it. It was incredibly hard to watch, but Bellucci is so fantastic in that scene and its films so well, it’s just….sigh…it was a lot for me to handle to be totally honest, but it didn’t feel gratuitous because its filmed in such an honest way. What a conflicting film in my mind; I might actually buy it on DVD which sounds insane, but I enjoyed this film more with this second viewing than with the first time I saw it. It certainly leaves an imprint on you, like…forever.

  10. As a huge fan of Memento I was very excited to watch another rape revenge movie told in reverse order. Although Irreversible proved to be nothing like Memento in any other aspect, I absolutely loved it nonetheless. I really liked the camera work throughout the whole film. Yes, it did make me nauseous and disoriented at the beginning but I know that was totally deliberate on Noe’s part. The infamous low frequency sound that can be heard when we traverse through The Rectum was definitely unsettling. Then, we watch some guy get the absolute shit beat out of him with a fire hydrant. Unbelievably gratuitous, the audience is forced to ask what could this man have possibly done to deserve such a brutal death. Moving backwards in chronology, we watch (in my opinion) an awesome performance from Vincent Cassel as a man on a mission to find the man who rapped his wife. Then we move back to the rape scene (and it’s not even the same guy they kill at the beginning [end] of the movie). This 9 minute excruciatingly realistic rape scene is probably the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen in a movie. It was amazingly acted, and I loved how the camera (which was so fluid in the rest of the movie) came to an absolute standstill, forcing the audience into the paralyzing situation of Alex’s rape. At this point during the movie, I wished I could rewind (fast-forward?) so I could watch that guy get the shit beat out of him again with the fire hydrant. After this, we continue on our backwards journey to witness the dynamic of Marcus and Alex’s relationship. I love the playful scene in bed, which horrifyingly foreshadows (postshadows?) the rape scene: it addresses that elusive question of where to draw the line between sex and violence (rape). To end the movie with the revelation that Alex is pregnant, a quick homage to 2001, and the title “Time Destroys Everything” was beautiful and left me in a very reflective move after the movie was over. Overall, this may be my favorite movie we have watched this semester.

  11. It was brought up in another comment, but I think that last phrase the film closes with - "Time destroys everything..." - is so drenched in melancholy and sorrow, and it accurately summarizes what I think Noe intends his film to express and contemplate. Time in itself is something so impacting and yet so temporal, that it can be difficult at times to view as something that doesn't bring things to a halt, doesn't deter, doesn't take away. At the core of Irreversible is the inability to change what comes before and what comes after, what lies outside of your control, fate's injustice, being powerless against the world and people around you. It is a very affecting film, aesthetically stimulating, energetic, and haunting, all the while being thought-provoking and reflexive. The rape scene is perhaps one of the most difficult scenes I've witnessed throughout the semester, and one that is so full of a chilling depravity that it left me feeling very cold and distraught afterwards. I definitely agree with Trae, Monica Bellucci deserves to be showered with a bouquet of flowers and admirable applause, she is phenomenal here, truly breathtaking. I also caught that final hand-shaking gesture she makes after the rape, and it made me feel so much pain and so empty; staggering and unexpectedly resonant, in every way. And the film's ending was perhaps the most beautiful part of the film - again, a sad beautiful. In having a section that reveals what could have been - Alex with child surrounded by beautiful greenery and foliage, basking in the warmth of sun, nurturing her womb - Noe really allows the tragedy to run through us, spilling like a teardrop does, forcing us to see what was bereft of these characters, of this story, of us. It was unforgettable, poetic, and undeniably powerful. And it will stay with me.