The most unsettling scene that made a movie real
Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible” so disgusted audiences when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival that newspapers estimated that 10% of the 2,400 spectators gathered walked out of the film (according to Tim Palmer’s retrospective on “Contemporary French Cinema from the body”) .
Closely following “Memento”, released a few years earlier, “Irreversible” is structured in the same way with its scenes presented in reverse chronological order. It begins with Marcus (Vincent Cassel) furiously searching for the man who raped his girlfriend, Alex (Monica Bellucci), and beat her into a coma. The rape itself is depicted mid-film in a grueling, unblinking single take, and “Irreversible” is known for its equally unbiased depiction of a man gradually, brutally getting his face caved in by a fire extinguisher.
What makes “Irreversible” so unique, despite being so hard to watch, is the way it flips the usual tropes of rape revenge. The “money shot” (of the supposedly crushed rapist’s head) comes early in the film, and it’s eventually revealed that the man who was killed wasn’t even the man who raped Alex. There’s no sense of catharsis as the film heads toward its serene, incongruous ending – only a growing sense of tragedy as we’re shown what no amount of revenge can ever restore. (Hannah Shaw-Williams)