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Film / I Stand Alone

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To each his own Morality.
To each his own Justice.


I Stand Alone (French: Seul contre tous; "Alone against everyone") is a 1998 French psychological drama art film, and the debut feature of Gaspar Noé.

The film focuses on several pivotal days in the life of a former butcher (Philippe Nahon) who knows nothing but continuous abandonment, rejection, abuse, and isolation from almost everyone in his life. He has an Inner Monologue dedicated to regular rants against the filthy dregs of France he resides in, the even filthier people he interacts with, and the wider emptiness of life as a whole.

The narrative is a direct continuation of Noé's short film Carne, released seven years prior, in which the Butcher tries to raise his autistic daughter Cynthia and run his meat shop after his wife leaves him. The film recounts the events of Carne in an opening Late-Arrival Spoiler slideshow: when Cynthia reaches her teenage years, the Butcher begins to resist trying to have sex with her. On the day of her first period, the Butcher mistakes this as rape and stabs a man he believes to be the attacker. He ends up in jail and is forced to sell his meat shop.


I Stand Alone uses this as backstory and continues forward from there. Needless to say, it gets worse. Much worse.

The Butcher would later have a cameo in the opening of Noé's next feature, Irréversible.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abuse Mistake: The Butcher plunges a knife into the guy who just happened to meet up with his daughter right after she had her first period. He mistook the blood in her crotch area for rape. The incident costs the Butcher a job later in the film.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: The Butcher possibly comes to this conclusion by the end of the film. After imagining a murder-suicide fantasy with his daughter, he ultimately puts his gun away and vows to be good...but the only thing that's keeping him going at this point is his incestuous attraction to his daughter.
  • Asshole Victim: The butcher's jerkass mistress had it coming when the butcher beats her up.
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  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Butcher's life story is told by the Butcher directly to the audience.
  • The Butcher: The Butcher, though he really did work as one.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: The Butcher's mistress promises to use the money from selling her bar to set up a meat market in a new town with the Butcher. Once they've moved, she recants and forces him to work.
  • Country Matters: The Butcher.
  • The Cynic: The Butcher in spades. After seeing the woman dies, he delivers a six-minute monologue about how life is empty, everything done in life means nothing and reproductive urges are the only thing worthwhile.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Between his mother leaving him, his father being killed by Nazis, and a priest sexually abusing him, it's safe to say the Butcher didn't have an easy upbringing.
  • Daydream Surprise: The Imagine Spot of the Butcher committing a brutal murder-suicide with himself and his daughter isn't revealed as a fantasy until shortly after the fact, when the scene snaps back to normal.
  • Death Is Such an Odd Thing: The first death that the Butcher ever saw was the old woman's death in the retirement home. He is very unsure of how to process it.
    "She [the nurse] seems all upset. Yet there's nothing to get all mushy over."
  • Dirty Old Man: Despite hating women entirely, he still loves the young and pretty ones.
  • Domestic Abuse: The Butcher beats the shit out of his mistress when she kicks him out and accuses him of being a homosexual ready to turn her to-be-born child gay.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted. The Butcher begins seriously contemplating it towards the end, and as he plots to use the three bullets in his gun to kill the people who have wronged him the most, he opts to use two to kill others and the third on himself. He ends up having a fantasy in which he goes through with it, but after reconciling with his daughter, he ultimately decides against it.
  • Establishing Character Moment: If stabbing a man in the face after assuming the guy raped his daughter isn't enough, punching his wife's stomach until the baby is aborted will do it.
  • Euroshlock
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Implied by the ward in the retirement home.
  • Fade to White: When the old woman in the nursing home dies.
  • Gainax Ending: Once the Butcher meets up with his daughter, he takes her to his hotel room where he imagines having sex with her, shooting her, and then shooting himself. However, once this is all shown to be pure fantasy, he puts his gun away and begins vowing to embrace the meaning in life. As he stares out the window with his daughter, he begins molesting her while rambling about how his love for her is too strong for the world. Roll credits.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: Downplayed; the Butcher ends up losing a deli job because he refuses to smile.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: The Butcher makes dismissive remarks about women, homosexuals, the rich and French people in general.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: The Butcher. He even monologues about how much he hates women, calling them weak and "poor creatures" with penis envy.
  • Heroic BSoD: The Butcher finally has one after considering a murder-suicide with his daughter. He comes out of it by fondling his daughter.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • The Butcher narrates in his head how he is going to kill the manager of a slaughterhouse he once worked with and then himself, fetishizing every shot fired.
    • He later imagines fondling his daughter, then killing her in a murder-suicide. This imagine spot even has its own blipvert imagine spot when he hesitates to kill himself.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: The Butcher kills his unborn child when he attacks his wife.
  • Informed Flaw: The Butcher's daughter is mentioned to be autistic, but she really seems lethargic and indifferent when she finally appears on screen.
  • Inner Monologue: Nearly all of the film's dialogue comes from the Butcher's thoughts.
  • It's Up to You: Everyone the Butcher knows in Paris is unable to help him with his financial woes.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The final shot leaves the hotel window where the Butcher is fondling his daughter and focuses on a road for a bit.
  • Men Can't Keep House: The Butcher can't keep a job for long and regards housework as a woman's job.
  • Mercy Kill: In his murder-suicide fantasy, the Butcher shoots his daughter in the neck and watches her writhe on the ground as he deliberates whether or not to shoot her again through the head to put her out of her misery. He does.
  • No Name Given: The Butcher remains nameless throughout this film, just like in Carne. This turns out to be an aversion, as eagle-eyed viewers will find that his name is given during the introduction as Philippe Chevalier.
  • Parental Abandonment: The Butcher's mother leaves him when he is four. The Butcher's wife leaves him with his daughter right after she gave birth, since she only wanted a son.
  • Parental Incest: In the end, the Butcher resolves to have children with his daughter.
  • Pedophile Priest: The Butcher is sexually assaulted by a priest at the age of six.
  • Perpetual Frowner: The Butcher's face spends almost all of the runtime in a firm scowl. Considering how much life has given him to scowl about, it's justified.
  • Pervert Dad: The Butcher really tries to resist having sex with his daughter.
  • Photo Montage: After the opening scene, the Butcher's entire past (and the events of Carne) is shown through a very detailed set of stills.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have a Nuke!: The man at the start of the film showing off his gun as his "justice":
    "Whether you're right or whether you're wrong… same difference, friend."
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The Butcher is convinced that his mistress believes this.
    "Besides, I want [to buy this meat.] It's my money, I'm pregnant and fuck you."
  • Self-Deprecation: A meta example:
    "It [the story] starts off in France, shithole of cheese and Nazi lovers."
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: The Butcher.
    "Shit sausage. Shit wine. Shit family in a fuckshit hole. Look at you now, Butcher."
  • Smash Cut: Used relentlessly throughout the film, complete with a crashing noise, without any provocation. They start going up when the Butcher gets angry.
  • Snicket Warning Label: The climax of the film is preceded by a full screen warning card, stating, "YOU HAVE 30 SECONDS TO LEAVE THE SCREENING OF THIS FILM," accompanied by a countdown. The last five seconds flash the word "DANGER" with a klaxon to let the audience know it's serious.
  • The Speechless: The Butcher's daughter Cynthia, as a result of autism.
  • Title Card: A few appear in the film, featuring a line of dialogue that has just been spoken.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: In the murder-suicide fantasy the Butcher has, after killing his daughter, he can only back up against the wall, his shock and trauma reflecting firmly in his eyes.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The Butcher's entire life.
  • Violence is the Only Option: The Butcher eventually convinces himself that it's up to him to deliver justice upon all who wrong him and that it will make his life better.
  • Would Hurt a Child: After the Butcher's wife begins a verbal altercation with him, things get physical and the Butcher retaliates by kneeing and punching her in the stomach, likely killing their baby. Once he flees the city not long after, he rationalizes the event by stating that he spared the baby of a life with his wife.