Friday, July 14, 2006


for some reason all the movies I’m seeing lately seem to be French with subtitles, must be that time of the season. The movie I watched late last night on dvd though, caught me entirely by surprise, I’d vaguely heard of it before as there had been an uproar about a ten minute rape scene in it, and lots of calls to ban it (it may have been banned here for a short while, someone will no doubt know) so I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe more sensationalist rubbish, what I found though was a quite brilliant portrayal of injustice, brutality, love and revenge.

The movie starts at the end and works towards the beginning, scene after scene, so the story by unrolling backwards is ‘irreversible’ and that is quite disconcerting. There is no hoping that the characters might escape their horrific fate, and no introduction to the characters before their fate overtakes them, first we see what has happened and then we slowly work backwards to find out what led up to the events and who the characters were who were involved, and the more we find out about them, the more horrific their fate seems and the more appalled we are that it is irreversible.

The strange thing about this movie is that it seems more ‘realistic’ than many films operating in the standard direction (99.9% of them) as for once we’re not watching fate with all its possibilities evolve, there is no manipulation of circumstances, no hope, you have to face reality head-on, the hero does not escape the ticking bomb, boy and girl do not run away together, and the sheer destructiveness, cruelty and injustice of rape is burned onto the screen.

The rape scene itself which caused so much uproar is entirely necessary, the banal brutality is laid out in front of the viewer, in real-time, no punches pulled. It is not melodramatic, it is not sensationalist, the audience have to make their own observations and for that reason it is one of the most affecting portrayals of violence I have seen, the viewer is forced to engage their own morals.

Any self-proclaimed ‘watchdog’ which tried to ban this film is as naive as an Ostrich with its head in the sand, this film should be seen, it is effective, intelligent and powerful; and in the end, more moral than bland sermonizing.


Blogger FraVernero said...

Hi there! You´ve got a nice piece of a blog here, so I suppose I´ll be having a look from time to time...
I´m also seeing lately too many french movies (but without the subtitles; that makes the thing a little bit harder; the same happens with Pasolini films, allthough I find Italian easier to understand...).
So, what is this film´s title? You´ve done it some great promotion, but ultimately failed to direct us to it...
I remeber a great, small, novella by García Marquez, 'Crónica de una muerte anunciada' (Chronicle of an anounced death) wich also begins with the same method: in its first line, we learn that a character is going to be murdered that same day, and as the books goes on we learn all the twists of fate, bad luck and history which lead to a dennouement we don´t want. But (at least in latin-american production), I think Marquez wasn´t the first. There´s also a small novel by argentinian Ernesto Sábato, 'El túnel' (The tunnel) which follows a similar structure.



9:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it- wasn't sure what you'd think except that you'd been able to 'enjoy' Salo, (as much as anyone can be said to have enjoyed it I mean). Were you able to sit through the fire hydrant scene without being queasy? After seeing that much of it with Mike, he stood up, visibly unnerved, and said he wished I'd warned him about the scenes, that he couldn't handle watching it, and it subsequently took days for the colour to come back to his cheeks. He told me of my 'duty' to warn anyone I lent it to, hence the spoilers (I hate revealing crucial plot points to people).

Loved your review. "I concur" because I'm too lazy to review it myself at this stage :-D


9:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly the only people who wanted to ban it in NZ was the SPCS, a Christian group who objected to the penetration close ups in the nine minute long anal rape sequence.

Of course the SPCS are notorious for trying to ban Film Festival films every year ...though I can't help thinking Ant Timpson brings it on himself a little - after all he promotes these things not on their filmic merits but rather on their ability to "shock" audiences, so it's not all that surprising that he gets taken at his word and attracts the SPCS.

Personally I don't agree with you at all about the film's supposed merits or integrity, but that doesn't mean it should be banned. On the other hand, the film's director Noe, (rather like Timpson) was in it for the shock value himself, to the extent that he apparently wanted the film to be banned, so who are we to deny him?

12:34 pm  
Blogger maps said...

'I don't agree with you at all about the film's supposed merits or integrity, but that doesn't mean it should be banned'

Why not? What other honest grounds are there to ban a work of art on?

5:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, I see it's people like you that would deprive people like me of such Great Works of Tripe as Johnny Mnemonic

Seriously though - a censorship based on virtue ethics? On "High" art? If anything I'd argue that was even less honest than one based on practical consideration for the tender sensibilities of the (voiciferous) populace.

10:32 am  
Blogger muzzlehatch said...

I did mean to respond to this thread earlier, but didn't get round to it. I'm sure fravernero has by now worked out the film is called Irreversible. In hindsight I stumbled into this film blissfully unaware of its history and the plethora of volatile reviews surrounding it, maybe thats for the best, I didn't even know the film was going to play in reverse when I watched it.
As to the 'penetration close-ups' in the rape scene, either we saw different cuts of the movie, or you're thinking of another one (maybe baisse moi?) part of the impact of the rape scene is that its shot from a single still camera at floor level in front of the protaganists, thereby obscuring any explicit content and leaving the highly uncomfortable emotional content. I've just read about 20 reviews of it, from 'disturbingly unforgettable, artfully crafted, humanistic' to 'ridiculous, ugly, adolescent, exploitative' so it seems the camp is divided on this one. For me the film became strangely poignant the further it went on..

6:58 pm  

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