“Irreversible” – Chris Luedtke

I believe that certain films must be made in order to make an important statement on a taboo or disturbing subject. What sometimes can’t be discussed can instead be molded into a piece of art so vicious, it attacks the viewer on all senses, both sweet and cruel. Irreversible is such a piece that will draw your blood and peel the flesh back to expose the disgusting center of predatory humanity.

One horrible night, Alex (Monica Bellucci) is brutally raped and beaten into a coma in a Paris underpass tunnel. Her boyfriend Marcus (Vincent Cassel) teams up with her ex-boyfriend Pierre (Albert Dupontel) and makes a call for vengeance that throws the boys into a violent, revolting world of filth and violence, all fueled by primal rage.

Irreversible is easily one of the most difficult films to watch that I’ve ever come across. Parts of this even give the infamous Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom a good run for its money. The first thing we notice about this film is how oddly it is shot. The camera seems to float along as though we’re on a balloon that goes back through time. The camera can be somewhat sickening at times, especially in the beginning. There were times where I had no idea where I was upside down or right side up. But that is the case with most of this film, until about the half hour mark. Yet this sort of shot works for the dizzying whirl of disgust we’re immediately thrown into. It takes a little while to catch on that the viewer is started at the end of the film and taken backwards from there. Is this a good idea? Well, without it, the film would be very dull and predictable. By throwing us into what would be the end, we get a fresh form of pacing that I personally haven’t seen before. And let me assure you, you’re attention will be kept.

Probably the most difficult sections of this film are those in the very beginning and the rape in the middle. When Marcus pops into a gay sex club known as The Rectum, Irreversible is thrust into a nasty, grainy yellow and brown style. It’s unique and gives the film a very nasty vibe. Immediately, Marcus is starting fights and throwing people around, until we finally get to where he begins brawling with a man known as Le Tenia (Jo Prestia). I was surprised I almost found myself looking away during the end of this fight. Never have I seen such a raw depiction of bloody, disgusting violence. Even gore master Lucio Fulci would look at this and quiver with jealousy. The rape in the middle of the film is…nasty, to say the very least. It’s realistic, raw, and doesn’t relent. The beating, the thrusting — all of this is very hard to watch. The camera never pulls us back or gives us time to breathe; if bad shit is happening, it wants us to see it.

The only problem I really encountered with Irreversible is that it lost halfway through what made it so madly haunting: its luster and brooding mood. Once the rape scene is done, the film almost becomes, dare I say it, friendly. Almost. It’s not entirely, because a lot of it deals with strong emotions, but they just aren’t brought out as prominently as those in the beginning of the film. This seems almost pointless, with the exception that it does establish one key element that makes the earlier happenings all the worse. Still, this “ending twist” isn’t that much of a surprise, nor does it seem to make the rape and revenge any more or less disturbing.

I have a hard time recommending Irreversible to anyone. I believe the film is very well done and a very important work for both cinema and primal humanity, because once it gets down to it, we realize it’s all about depicting humanity at its most primal, sexual, and violent. Like Salò, be warned; this film is most certainly not for everyone.

Rating: ★★★½

-Chris Luedtke

Leave a Reply