Thursday, September 17, 2015
"Irreversible", a violent French crime thriller, follows on "Memento"
The bare plot of the French thriller “Irreversible” (2002, by Gaspar Noe) sound like a typical revenge bloodbath. A young woman Alex (Monica Bellucci) is brutally raped in an underpass by a pimp Le Tenia (Jo Prestia). Her boyfriend Marcus (Vincent Cassell) and even ex-boyfriend Pierre (Albert Dupontel) get over any rivalry and extract a brutal revenge.
But what makes the film remarkable is the backwards-layered structure. The film comprises thirteen “long take” scenes, played in reverse chronological order. The artistic effect is to make the gratuitous violence of the film (which would seem to warrant an NC-17) watchable and even meaningful. How often we learn a lot about a traumatic life event by walking it back into time. Think like Benjamin Button.
The rape scene lasts several minutes and is one of the most graphic ever filmed. But so is an “earlier” (later in time) beating in a leather bar called “The Rectum”, a place far more menacing than “The Hoist” in “Age of Consent” (Aug. 30). The sexual practices shown in the place are also truly graphic and destructive.
The film will, of course, be compared to “Memento” (2001, Christopher Nolan, a film that seems small now given the director’s huge films since), where Guy Pearce plays a man with short-term memory problems looking for his wife’s killer, and playing back his life in reverse (remember the note “Shave thigh”).
As the film begins (at the end), a motive from the Adagio if the Mahler Ninth plays. As the film ends, the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh plays. During the violent scenes, there is plenty of electronic music by Thomas Bangalter.
The opening credits play games by reversing letters, which proves a bit annoying and pointless. But this is really the end credits, played backwards, as if the end of a palindrome. They could have tried using the last movement of Paul Hindemith's Horn Concerto to make a point.
The film is available on Netflix DVD and instant play.
In my own screenplay “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany”, I have a more complex concept, of reverse layering. In the early part of the film, I would present a fictitious story (screenplay) that I had authored as a proposed short film, which would cause a ruckus where I worked when found online. Then, in future backstory flashback, I present an earlier episode which shows why I posted the script.
Picture: Mine, from a ferry boat, but it seems to apply.