Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Irreversible Review


Everyone tries to tell me that Irreversible has the harshest rape scene in a movie, and everytime I would rool my eyes and laugh. I saw it before, but I made it a point to watch it again, for this blog's sake, and it turned out that this movie is harsh, but it's not the rape scene that got me, it was the beginning of the film that shook me. Irreversible, starring Monica Bellucci and directed by Gaspar Noe, is one of the craziest movies I've seen in a long time. This film is not straight forward horror, but it definitely deserves a spot in this blog as a scary film and if it were 1972 instead of 2002, this film would be classic grindhouse revenge fair. However, because this is a French film from 2002, it is held as high art rather than revenge, grindhouse style film making. It's rightfully so, as this film is much better than a lot of other films in the genre, or any genre for that matter. So without further ado, here is a review of the 2002 French film Irreversible.

The movie opens up with the ending, and works its way backwards with thirteen scenes each more intense and each more graphic. Then it cools off, as the end is the beginning and the beginning is the end, a weird dichotomy that seems to work well in this movie. Some might say that that Memento uses the same film making tactic, and others actually say that Irreversible is France's answer to Memento. I guess I can see their point, since the American film was made in 2000 and this film was made two years later.

Here is a trailer for the film Irreversible:

Alright, so the beginning of the film is shown at the end and the end is shown at the beginning. The movie is really harsh. It takes you through the rings of hell, at least to me that is what I was viewing. Different levels in a sex club, one part was extremely harsh to me, it had a guys fist in his anus, I swear I'm not making this up. These two men were frantically searching through the levels trying to find someone, and each room, each level had different sex acts, and they were not shown in a pretty light. When they find the man they are looking for, they beat the hell out of him. This is the sickest beating I've seen in film, as they cave in his face with a fire extinguisher as men circle them and watch in befuddlement. This is the sickest thing in a movie that I've seen. The initial shock wore out fast though, as I remembered who I was...the reviewer of gore and scary films. However, the impact was just insane, especially since this is touted as a "serious" film.

The colors in this film are amazing. The director uses color to evoke emotion and response. The violence in the opening of this film is only made scarier due to the colors and tones in which the film is saturated in. We see reds, oranges and other color burned effects that lead into the provoking of imagery to make things worse. This is not gore for the sake of gore, it's almost artful in its progression to the bitter end. This is near sickening, but right when you're ready to call things out, the scene ends and you're taken backwards in the story telling method that relies on its non linear approach to unveil deeper meanings.

I must also mention that this film is not dubbed into English. This film is subtitled and I am not a huge fan of this. I used to watch a lot of Anime and foreign films and didn't mind reading along, but I don't have enough free time these days to invest in watching these subtitled films for the sake of reviewing, so I try to avoid them if possible. Sometimes I can't avoid it, like in this movie, and must continue through to get a good review out of it. So if you're not too keen on reading subtitles, then you are going to want to avoid this film.

Is Irreversible Scary? : Yes. The movie doesn't start out as a traditional horror film, and it doesn't look like it would be a horror movie. However, the rape scene that is sandwiched between story and plot is incredibly raw and graphic. You really feel like you're watching a rape scene, and that's not necessarily a good thing. What makes things even more realistic is that you see the rapists's penis after he's finished raping the victim. This drives the motivation for the two men in the beginning to smash someone's face in, however, as you may find out, they are wrong.

The scary parts of this film rely on a couple of things to work well. The first is shock value. Shock value usually is placed in a lot of movies as gore. This film does it with color, emotion and violence. The camera doesn't flinch or erratically move out of the way like it did in "28 Weeks Later", nor does it pander to those that love gore like in "The Wizard of Gore", but rather it carefully puts you as a fly on the wall looking on as things detach into chaos. The scary thing is not the act of violence, but more over the helplessness of the victim and witnesses that are involved. First off, these men do not get the right person, and secondly the crowd of onlookers can't help them. Being helpless, whether admitted or not, is a huge fear to anyone. These people are helpless as things unfold before them.

The second part of the film that is scary is the rape. The rape scene is harsh and the director chooses a way to film it that is not like anything you've seen in film. Unless you've seen the Rob Black Production of "Forced Entry", which was covered on PBS' Frontline television show where the camera crew and personnel were disgusted by simulated rape scenes. (Not to be confused with the 1974 cult classic Forced Entry) Of course these scenes are for arousal and pornography, while "Irreversible" is not meant to entice at all. The sounds are scarier than the rape itself. You hear flesh against flesh and you hear the woman's nails scratching the concrete in an underground tunnel. Such guile this rapist has, and yet there is no justice for him in this film. This film is truly harsh in the way it treats us to this scene, and it's scary to think that there are those that have experienced such things.

Those two elements alone can not make the movie scary. The movie gets really dark with the progression of dialogue and revenge. The revenge plot that is sewn in this film is great. The emotion boils into a keg of gun powder and explodes with such a brute force that I haven't seen since I first saw the Singapore import of "Perth". The anger, the violence and the sexual tension in this film is great, and the production moves this film from simple revenge film to horror, thriller and high art at times. I recommend watching Irreversible, as it takes the ideas of "They Call Her One Eye" and magnify them into a digestible and better film, considering it was made nearly 40 years later.

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A writer first, cat lover second, and some other stuff too. Human, with lots of faults, and terrible communication.
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