One of the most disturbing films ever made, Gaspar Noe’s “Irreversible” contains a classic movie trope (rape and then revenge for the rape), but completely undermines it by telling the story in reverse. Instead of seeing a horrible crime and its aftermath, you see the aftermath first … then the trauma … the events leading up the trauma … and then life when the trauma would not even be conceivable for its characters. The decision to show this sequence of events in reverse is positively devastating. While this film contains scenes of near-unwatchable graphic violence and sexual brutality, the film’s final scene … which is a peaceful scene set in a park with the lead female protagonist … is arguably, the most painful to watch … mainly because we know what’s ahead and it’s unbearable to watch someone who has no idea what physical and psychic devastation lays ahead for them.
“Irreversible” was the most notorious film of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, prompting walk-outs and severe denunciations. I can completely understand this, because the film is one of the most brutalizing cinematic experiences you’ll ever see. But it’s not only thematically ballsy, but artistically so. This is a great, great film, but not a film that you’d want to watch more than once. I would not find fault with anyone who would refuse to watch this on principle. Even if you think you have a strong stomach, “Irreversible” will go beyond what you think you can handle. But don’t let the severe subject matter dissuade you from thinking this is a great film. It is a devastating masterpiece, but please proceed with extreme caution. This is an NC-17 film that makes “Showgirls” look like “E.T.” I’m not kidding at all in saying this. The film stars internationally renowned actors Monica Belluci and Victor Cassel.