Film / Irreversible

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

Irreversible is a French 2002 film by Gaspar Noe. Events over the course of one traumatic night in Paris unfold in reverse chronological order as the beautiful Alex (Monica Bellucci) is brutally raped and beaten by a stranger in the underpass. Her boyfriend Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and ex-lover Pierre (Albert Dupontel) 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.

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. There's also a scene where a guy gets his head crushed by a fire extinguisher.
  • Back to Front: The whole movie.
  • Badass Bookworm: Pierre. As shown by the party scene, he's not receptive to any of the women Marcus offers him, but ends up violently bludgeoning someone to death with a fire extinguisher to save Marcus from rape.
  • Bookends: "Le temps detruit tout" ("time destroys everything") is the first spoken line of the film and appears in text at the very end.
  • Born Lucky: 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.
  • Break the Cutie: Quite the understatement. Given it's not as drawn out as most examples and only centers in one scene, but it fits here nonetheless.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • This is actually a case of Throw It In; that person was an assistant who didn't know they were shooting, and Noe left them in to show that not everyone prevents crimes.
  • Call Back: The closing credits which open the film look identical to those from Noé's previous film, I Stand Alone, but they run backwards.
  • Call Forward:
    • "I can't feel my arm..."
    • The final scene (which is the first chronologically) has Marcus telling Alex that he wants to fuck her in the ass. Guess how Alex gets raped.
    • Alex at one point says to Marcus that she had a dream where she was walking down a red tunnel before it broke into 2 pieces; she ends up being raped in a red tunnel.
  • 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: Of the Roaring Rampage of Revenge that Marcus and Pierre go on, which realistically doesn't go as planned.
  • 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.
  • Downer Beginning / Downer Ending: Marcus is taken away on a stretcher, Pierre is arrested for his brutal murder of the man attempting to rape Marcus, and there's no evidence shown that Alex is going to recover, if she hasn't already died.
  • 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.
    • We end up seeing the results of Alex's No-Holds-Barred Beatdown following her rape when she is carried away on a stretcher; needless to say, they're not good.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The naked Butcher at the start of the film.
    • The rape scene.
  • Foregone Conclusion: A given, considering the story is told in reverse and gives us all the nasty details first, which makes it more distressing to see the same characters that we know will be victimized by the end interacting happily in scenes that would otherwise be amusing and cute.
  • Freudian Trio: Alex/Marcus/Pierre; Ego/Id/Super-Ego.
  • From Bad to Worse: Played with due to the reverse chronology.
  • Genre Shift: Goes from a horrific and disturbing crime drama to being much more light-hearted and humorous.
  • Gorn:
    • Pierre's fire extinguisher beating.
    • Alex's ruined face after La Tenia's attack.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted.
    • In one case, inverted quite grimly. During the brutal finale of Alex's rape, La Tenia pounds her face into the ground. It's at this point that, for the first time in some 10 minutes, the camera moves, and it's only to get a better look at what's happening.
  • 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.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Marcus breaks down crying after seeing a brutally beaten Alex being carried away on a stretcher, and looks notably damaged when he is being questioned by a cop in the next (chronological) scene.
  • 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. After his vicious rape and assault of Alex, Marcus and Pierre track him down to Club Rectum but they get into a fight with another man whom they mistake for Le Tenia while the real Le Tenia looks on with a smile several feet away.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The final scene has happy, upbeat orchestral music playing...and subsequently fading into "The End", a harsh and disturbing track.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Contains this for Noe's earlier film I Stand Alone in the very first scene: the Butcher slept with his autistic daughter and went to jail for it.
  • Male Frontal Nudity:
    • The rapist is quickly flashing his best part right after raping Alex. It's all CGI though.
    • In the final scene, Marcus and Alex are naked, and although the camera normally tries its best to hide Marcus' parts, there are select angled shots where we do catch a glimpse anyway.
  • 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: Ends with Noe's traditional spinny-cam, focusing on a sprinkler kids are playing around, only to grow in intensity and barrel roll into the sky, spinning faster and faster until it begins strobing with rapidly spinning footage from space.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil
  • Pop-Star Composer: Thomas Bangalter, one half of Daft Punk, composed the soundtrack for the movie.
  • Power Trio: Alex, Marcus, and Pierre; they're the three biggest characters and easily the ones we should care about the most.
  • Rape and Revenge: After she's brutally raped and beaten, Alex's ex-lover hunts down her rapist along with two criminals to exact revenge.
  • Rape as Drama: The core of the film's plot is Alex's rape at the hands of thug Le Tenia.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Marcus and Pierre after discovering Alex has been raped. It doesn't work.
  • Sensory Abuse: Present throughout the movie, from the at-times assaulting cinematography (ex: the fire extinguisher scene) to the Infrasonics in the soundtrack to the ending.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The monologue at the beginning of the film is delivered by the incestuous Butcher who was the protagonist of Gaspar Noé's previous film Seul Contre Tous.
    • There are lots of present references to Stanley Kubrick films.
      • 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 Noé's all-time favorite movie.
      • Posters for The Killing in Marcus and Alex's apartment.
      • Monica Bellucci's character, Alex, is named after Alex DeLarge.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Marcus' arm being broken in the Rectum.
  • Trippy Finale Syndrome: The final minutes of the film, which contain nothing but Sensory Abuse in its purest form; hard strobing between the white of the sky and the black of space, alongside the deeply frightening "The End" playing over it all.
  • 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.

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