Tuesday, January 13, 2009
If you ask a handful of people to list the most brutal films in existence, chances are that Irreversible will pop up on a lot of those lists and will probably top most of them. But Irreversible is not just one of the most brutal films of all time. It is also one of the most important and perhaps the most powerful film I, for one, have ever witnessed. So let's discuss it, shall we? I encourage you to leave your thoughts on the film in the comments section so that we can continue the discussion in there.
I've heard a lot of people talk about the brutality of the movie and question why it needs to be so brutal. Why is a head graphically and extensively shown being bashed in with a fire extinguisher? And why does Monica Belluci get hardcore raped for about 10 minutes? Is it for shock value? Is it exploitation? Absolutely not and i've never been so sure of anything in my entire life. There is so much more to this masterpiece than controversial violent images and graphic depictions of violence. It is the furthest thing from what some would consider mere cinematic pornography.
The reason these acts, particularly the rape, are so brutal and graphic is because showing them in that way is really the only way for the jaded film viewer to fully appreciate the magnitude and horrificness of such acts. How often in a film, and for that matter in real life, do you hear about someone getting raped? We hear it on the news all the time but it never quite registers just how horrible a thing it is, does it? We don't know the person who got raped and just hearing the word "rape" doesn't even begin to evoke the sheer terror and power of such a thing. We see it all the time in films, but we usually just catch brief glimpses. Again, without seeing the whole thing, we really don't get the full sense of it. In Irreversible, we see the ENTIRE thing. The beginning, the middle, the end, and all of its impacts on everyone involved. If that scene were to have been dulled down and cut short, the movie would lose nearly all of its power. It's not easy to watch by any means, but we absolutely NEED to see it in order for the film to affect us in the way it should. As Spacey said in Seven, "When wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them over the head with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention." The same theory applies for the head bashing revenge scene. We need to see, in all its glory, how barbaric and animalistic a mild mannered nice man has become as a result of the brutal rape we are about to endure.
The way the movie is structured is equally important and it's got nothing to do with being cool and hip by telling a story in a non linear fashion. If the story was told straight forward, beginning to end, we wouldn't have that time to hang out with the main characters as they go about their daily lives, before the tragedy strikes. Getting to know these characters only after we see what has been done to them is so much more frightening. As Roger Ebert eloquently stated in his review of the film, "When Alex and Marcus caress and talk, we realize what a slender thread all happiness depends on. To know the future would not be a blessing but a curse. Life would be unlivable without the innocence of our ignorance." And ending the film with the newly pregnant Alex lounging in the sun with life and beauty all around her when we know what the near future holds for her? That's some fucking powerful shit and that end scene really showcases the reality that this can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Which is a big part of what makes people so scared and afraid of this movie.
Has anyone noticed that the guy Pierre kills in the beginning is not even the guy who raped Alex? Pierre and Marcus are so pumped up and out for blood that they mistakenly kill the wrong dude. Any ideas on why the filmmaker, Gaspar Noe, threw this in there? My first thought was that it was to show the pointlessness of revenge. Not in the sense that killing someone who's done such wrong to you is the wrong thing to do (if ever revenge was justified, this is the film), but in the sense that killing the person doesn't change what has already been done in any way. Nothing can change that. As the older dude in the beginning says, TIME DESTROYS EVERYTHING. The two men killing the wrong dude clearly highlights the sheer pointlessness, hopelessness, and desperation of such an act. Pierre, who as I said is normally a timid guy, was mad with anger and he simply wanted to kill someone. Anyone. In the end, does it even matter if he killed the right person or not? It doesn't change a thing either way. Killing even the right man would not bring Alex and her unborn child back. Life, for all involved, is permanently destroyed at the hands of one dirtbag pimp. Time has run its course and there is no going back (what's the name of the film?). And guess what? This shit happens every day, in the real world, and Noe has brought that to the forefront for all viewers of the film. If that scares you too much and you'd prefer to just write the film off as exploitative garbage, like many have, open your eyes. Instead of living in fear, live with the appreciation of what you've got and with the comfort that no matter what you're going through, it's in most cases not nearly as bad as what you could be going through.
Irreversible is one of the hardest films i've ever had to sit through, and i've sat through it many times. It's not a movie I like or enjoy watching, but it's one I try to show to everyone who comes into my life (I made Jen watch it with me one of the first times we hung out ... god bless her for staying with me!). I think everyone needs to see it. Everyone needs to endure it. According to Newsweek, it was the most walked out of movie of 2002. Honestly, I can see why. But I strongly encourage everyone reading this to watch it, pay attention, and see it through. It's a life altering film and if you spend the hour and a half in the grips of it, you can rest assured that you will emerge on the other end with a greater appreciation for your own life. It'll probably depress the shit out of you too, however. But like I said above, I think the films main goal is to make you appreciate what you have, rather than be depressed over what happened to the fictional characters. You have to go through the darkest of darks before you can truly see the light. This movie is scary powerful and it was a good long while after my initial viewing before it left my mind. In fact, it never fully will. No other film experience may ever come close to that of watching Irreversible for the first time.
Now's the time to share your opinions! Leave a comment with your thoughts on the film!