One man is arrested at a gay nightclub called The Rectum, and another carried out on a stretcher, as an unnamed middle-aged man (Phillippe Nahon) tells his roommate that "time destroys everything." At an earlier point in time, we see the two men (Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel) aggressively making their way through the club in search of a pimp called "The Tenir". As the film proceeds, the story moves further backwards, revealing who these two men are and why they are seeking revenge.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Audacious it may be, but Irreversible carries so little meaning and is so gimmicky from start to finish that it plays like a self indulgent experiment, with barely a decent line of dialogue or anything discernible to say. The two scenes in the film that give it a veneer of notoriety are inexcusably manipulative; the violence in the early scene inside the outrageously named Rectum nightclub is sheer hyperbole for its shock value. But at least the camera keeps moving, editing is intense and the dark red light defies clarity of vision. The second scene takes place later in the film (approximately the same 'distance' from the end as the first is from the beginning) but is the only scene shot in absolute camera stillness, locking onto the brutal anal rape and beating of Alex by a nasty little man in a grey suit. Here, the brittle, sleazy light of a littered subway tunnel glares down on the vicious and confronting action, in a long, single take.
As Gaspar Noe turns back the clock and Alex is on her way to the party with Marcus and her ex, Pierre, another long take is set in a subway station and then inside a carriage, where the three have a conversation, which is unscripted except for the setting of the topic, about whether Marcus can give Alex an orgasm. This is so laborious it bores the tits off everybody (except Bellucci, of course). Noe's experiment, to tell a story backwards, is evidently driven by his creative drive to do something totally different. The problem is that he has found the vehicle but nothing to put in it. He also comes up against the inevitable physics of film: even if you edit the scenes into reverse plot order, you can't stop the scenes going forwards in time, so you always have to engineer a fake edit point (or pan to oblivion of the pale ceilings) so you can jump back in time. Unless you simply shoot the film as usual and play it in reverse, including the dialogue: now, there's different for you, but what's the point? Well, exactly.
Noe begins with a wild, panting camera that swerves and glides and turns upside down in the dark recesses of the nightlife of (presumably) Paris. Slowly, as we draw back to the sweetness and light of the beginning of the short story, the camera - and the lighting - begins to steady and brighten. But the opening scene of two men sitting on what seems like a motel or institutional bed - one of them stark naked, old and flabby - is (other than having one utter the film's mantra, "Time destroys everything") a meaningless bookend to the final scene of Alex sitting on a park bench, while kids play in the sun under the sprinkler on the grass. The fact that she is evidently enjoying early pregnancy suggests the story has now inched forward from the previous scene - but not forward enough to avoid the brutal beginning ... er, ending.
It seems more likely that the filmmakers have run out of ideas (which were fairly limited to start with) on how to end the film, and opt for a bright white strobe light that pulsates noisily the audience. I can't help thinking of Dylan Thomas, when asked to what he owed his literary success: "Confound the buggers," he mumbles frankly.
On the DVD, the most arresting aspect of the extras is the sfx featurette, in which sfx man Rodolph Chabrier explains how the rapist is given a penis digitally after he rolls off Monica Bellucci – which we see briefly in the finished film. This 7-minute featurette also shows how the brutal bashing of a man's face with a fire extinguisher and other violence was created.
Published: August 5, 2004
Email this article
IRREVERSIBLE: DVD (R )
CAST: Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupentel, Jo Prestia
DIRECTOR: Gaspar Noe
SCRIPT: Gaspar Noe
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
PRESENTATION: Anamorphic 2:35:1, 16:9 enhanced; DD 5.1
SPECIAL FEATURES: Sfx featurette; deleted scene; music videos Stress & Outrage; teaser; theatrical trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Accent
DVD RELEASE: August 2, 2004