I finally got round to watching the DVD of Irréversible last night. The 2002 French film proved controversial when it was premiered in Cannes film festival, there were mass walk out. Read on to see why.
The film was shot in Super 16mm camera and the (lack of) quality shows. It doesn't matter since it is on DVD anyway.
The narrative is told backwards, Memento style, where each sequence starts the moment the next sequence ends. I have to admit that getting into the film was very very difficult. It wasn't the language barrier. It was the first 20 minutes. Everytime I sit down to watch it I couldn't get past the first 20 minutes.
** spoilers ahead **
This first scene in particularly was very difficult to concentrate. The spinning camera moves around, focused and unfocused, close up and then pull out etc. It was disorientating. According to IMDB, the first 30 minutes has background noise with frequency of 28Hz which causes nausea, vertigo and sickness among humans.
The movie continues (backward) where Vincent Cassel's character attempts to track down a person. The resulting consequence is almost too brutal to put on words here. However it is the next scene which proved to be the most controversial.
Yes, the famous rape scene where Monica Bellucci's character, Alex, is brutally raped. This depends on your boundaries might be just too difficult to stomach. This was the scene where according to the filmmakers, 200 people walked out during the premiere at Cannes.
The scene was very violent and done on a single cut. Alex was beaten up, raped and beaten up again. The whole scene was done so realistically. Presenting the sequence on a single cut also re-enforced the realism.
While the film starts out brutally and violently, because the film continues backwards, we are presented with a peaceful and beautiful final quarter.
In fact one sees why Gaspar Noé, the director, decided to structure the film backwards. The violent and rape scenes which were shown in the beginning of the film gives you understanding to the characters, particularly of Vincent Cassel's later. A more subtle message was whether revenge/murder should be justified.
Many films rated 18 are actually suitable for children. This isn't. The boundary of 'bad taste' in mainstream cinema has been pushed further. This is a French film after all and the French don't hold barriers when it comes to the subject of pornography (this receives a 16 rating in France). The most 'realistic' violent mainstream Hollywood film is The Passion of the Christ (not Reservoir Dogs - that's for kids) That should be your benchmark. Can't take that. Don't watch this.