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Film: Irreversible

"Le temps dtruit tout." ("Time destroys everything.")

Irreversible is a French 2002 film by Gaspar No. Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse-chronological order as the beautiful Alex is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass. Her boyfriend and ex-lover take matters into their own hands by hiring two criminals to help them find the rapist so that they can exact revenge.

Similar to Memento, the film is in reverse chronological order, enabling it to show a simultaneously beautiful and terrible examination of the destructive nature of cause and effect, and how time destroys everything. To this day, the controversial rape scene is what the film tends be remembered for, rather than the backwards narrative and exploration of vengeance. There were reports that members of the audience walked out of the movie after becoming ill.

The film tends to elicit similar reactions from people. Critical reception was divided, with some decrying its apparent lack of moral message and its willingness to wallow in the worst excesses of human behaviour. Others praised No's inventive camerawork, innovative use of sound and unflinching portrayal of horrific subject matter.


This film provides examples of:

  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": The film has an eight-minute rape scene, and that's often the only thing people know about it.
  • Back to Front: The whole movie.
  • Badass Bookworm: Pierre.
  • Break the Cutie
  • Brown Note: Infrasonics were deployed during the more disturbing scenes in the film. Reportedly, this was specifically for the sake of causing nausea in filmgoers.
  • Berserk Button: Marcus has one which is in-keeping with his volatile nature... But you really, really, really don't want to ever piss Pierre off.
  • Bystander Syndrome: While Alex is pinned to the floor and is quite obviously struggling to scream and get away, someone in the background walks into the underpass, looks at what's happening, and walks away.
  • Call Back: The closing credits which open the film look identical to those from No's previous film, I Stand Alone, but they run backwards.
  • Call Forward: "I can't feel my arm..."
  • Closing Credits: Following the backwards conceit to the fullest extent, the film opens with the closing credits which run backwards.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Marcus swears when he gets in a fight with the Asian cab driver.
    "You're throwing me out of the cab, you fucking Chink nancy? Gonna call your slant-eyed asshole friends? Bowl of rice shit, hurry or I'll fuck your ass! Go ream your shitass genetic code. Fucking Peking duck!"
  • Crapsack World: While the first half of the film could certainly be said to take place in a hellish underworld, the film also gives us a look at a more innocent and idyllic vision of the world before it is shattered.
  • Deconstruction
  • Despair Event Horizon
  • Disproportionate Retribution
  • Dizzy Cam: The camera spins around gyroscopically to make the transition to the next reverse chronological scene. It also barrel rolls during the final scene.
  • Drone of Dread: During the Fire Extinguisher scene - the techno changes to one recurring droning note, bent higher then lower, in a cyclical wave.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: The opening credits flicker white and red, and the final shot strobes between a bright white sky and wildly rotating footage of outer space for one full minute.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The pimp with a penchant for anal rape is only known as La Tenia.
  • Facial Horror: The fire extinguisher beating.
  • Fan Disservice
  • Foregone Conclusion
  • From Bad to Worse: Played with due to the reverse chronology.
  • Genre Shift
  • Gorn:
    • Pierre's fire extinguisher beating.
    • Alex's ruined face after La Tenia's attack.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted.
  • Happily Ever After: Inverted to the point of being Anvilicious.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The worst possible result of this happens to Alex, for nine uninterrupted minutes.
  • Interface Screw: The closing credits that open the film tilt slightly to the right until the entire thing is at a 45-degree angle. They then spin the other way until sideways and fly out of the screen, introducing the large amounts of Dizzy Cam to follow.
  • Jerkass: Marcus. At times it's a hard to see why Alex is dating him at all. A point lampshaded by Pierre at one point in the film.
  • Karma Houdini: Le Tenia
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Irreversible contains this for his earlier film I Stand Alone in the very first scene: The Butcher slept with his autistic daughter and went to jail for it.
  • Lucky Bastard: Le Tenia is not the sort of rapist who stalks his victim and plans the attack, he quite literally happened to spot Alex and attacked her. The attack happened simply because Alex happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the wrong time only by a very narrow margin: if she had entered that underpass thirty seconds earlier she would have gotten through it and been out on the other side before Le Tenia entered, and if she had gone in there thirty seconds later she would have seen Le Tenia beating the prostitute and known not to approach. He then proceeded to rape and beat her for nine minutes in a place where anyone could have discovered him and intervened, his grip slipped long enough for Alex to scream a couple of times, and someone actually did see what he was doing but walked away without doing anything. Despite all these opportunities to fail, he succeeds purely by luck. He is also a Karma Houdini thanks to a case of mistaken identity that he likewise didn't plan, and has apparently escaped the police despite not taking any precautions against leaving DNA evidence inside Alex.
  • Meaningful Name: Le Tenia (The Tapeworm)
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • When Pierre beats another man to death with a fire extinguisher. It's like watching personified concentrated rage.
    • Not to mention the beatdown that Alex gets from her rapist.
  • The Oner: The film uses a lot of these. For example, the ten-minute rape-scene, which is all one long horrifying shot.
  • Pan Up To The Sky Ending
  • Pay Evil unto Evil
  • Pop-Star Composer: Thomas Bangalter, one half of Daft Punk, composed the soundtrack for the movie.
  • Power Trio: Alex/Marcus/Pierre; Ego/Id/Super-Ego.
  • Rape and Revenge
  • Rape as Drama
  • Real-Life Relative: Monica Belluci and Vincent Cassel are married.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Marcus after discovering Alex has been raped.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The monologue at the beginning of the film is delivered by the incestuous Butcher who was the protagonist of Gaspar No's previous film Seul Contre Tous.
    • Also seen in Marcus and Alex's home is a poster for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Definitely an influence on the ending.
      • Also, it happens to be Gaspar No's all-time favorite movie.
  • Tragedy
  • Trippy Finale Syndrome
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The woman who tells Alex to take the underpass rather than cross the street because it's safer.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Gaspar Noe is a fan of this trope in general, and the scenes of violence in this film are very disturbing.
  • Violence is the Only Option: Subverted in that Pierre, the one who tries to talk Marcus out of violent retribution commits the shockingly brutal act that opens the film. This is only made all the more pointless and hollow when you go back through the story.
  • Visual Innuendo: The fire extinguisher was not chosen at random as a weapon, being a phallic symbol. Hence the fact that Pierre destroys the suspected rapist's head with extinguisher blows to avenge the rape of Alex.


Irma VepFrench FilmsIs Paris Burning?
It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas MovieFilms of 2000 - 2004 Jason X

alternative title(s): Irreversible
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