Directed by Gaspar Noe. France. 2002.

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Noeís rape and revenge drama is one of those strange beasts that demands admiration and yet is impossible to like. First impressions count, and the fire extinguisher to the face opening of Irreversible is just an irredeemable image. Itís the real-life equivalent of meeting someone for the first time and then piercing his or her eyes with a lamppost. And this wasnít even the scene that caused all the controversy either. That would be the one take, nine minute, anal rape scene. This movie would not make a good stocking filler.

The film chronicles the course of an evening where after a party, a woman is raped and subsequently her boyfriend and friend take revenge. Noe, however, is more concerned with the images inherent with this, rather than the actual chronology of events. The film is polarised with powerful scenes of hate and equally evocative scenes of love. Noe sets himself the impossible task of redeeming the earlier, ultra-violent images with genuinely tender and endearing visuals- this is a film with real cinematic purpose that is met with brave technique, something rarely witnessed on our screens today. Noe introduces the film with a chaotic camera that pumps with carnage, gradually resting the movement to a beautifully serene finale. It is perhaps a slightly contrived metaphor, although still one used with assured and meaningful purpose.

In striving to allow the visuals complete liberation from the hindrance of narrative, Noe reverses the events of the film so the end happens at the beginning and vice-versa. This somewhat artificial freedom permits Noe to evoke his desired effect, although it doesnít work as completely as the same technique did for Christopher Nolan in Memento. Mementoís plot depended intimately on the unusual structure of the film, where as Irreversibleís design is to escape conventional plot altogether and invite the audience respond to the film emotionally rather than with thought. As a result, for the most part, we are left with deeply affecting filmmaking, but consequently there is this residue of pretence that mars the film. Irreversible is essentially a sequence of nine shots, which serve the unflinching brutality of the film superbly. Aside from the bold reality that is born out of this, the style must be met with capable performances and Vincent Cassell and Monica Belucci demonstrate the command they have over 
their craft with ease. Both leads lend a humanity to the scenes that bestow this intensely emotional film with a heart.

Whilst remaining uncomfortable viewing at best, Irreversible is, if nothing else, a monstrous technical achievement in cinema that screams with passion.

Aaron Asadi
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