After his feature film debut I Stand Alone, a harrowing and frightening portrayal of a man on the edge, Gaspar Noe went even further with his next film, and really made his mark on world cinema. Released to both critical acclaim and bitter disgust, the content of the film was not easy to swallow. Dealing with the aftermath of the rape of Alex (Monica Belluci), Noe cleverly turn the tables on the usual revenge flick by delivering the film to its audience in reverse.
This clever decision meant that we, as a viewer, watched the horrific events unfold from the tragic end and then worked backwards as Noe blended each scene together with a dizzying camera that swirled, elevated and rolled around, helping the films nauseating sense of anger, revenge and sickening violence. Noe crafted his film this way so that instead of watching the film in order of events, and having the viewer see the disgusting rape first and then “cheer on” the savage revenge attack, we watch the revenge happen first and instead of cheering on and screaming how the ‘victim’ deserves it, we are in total shock, disgust and it is very hard to watch what happens. This work of genius by Noe meant that the moral question of “do two wrong make a right” and “is revenge really the answer?” was turned on its head in a full on, brutal attack on the viewers senses. No one deserved this sort of punishment, surely?
Once you see the vicious rape, you will change your mind, and Noe crafts the scene with a still camera, forcing the viewer to ‘experience’ the assault. This scene is very, very hard to watch, but the fire extinguisher scene is up there as quite possibly the most horrific death put on screen for a good twenty years, maybe ever? If you are brave enough, the scene is embedded below, but believe me if you have not seen this film then please, caution is advised!!
The scene begins in an underground gay club in Paris called The Rectum: Marcus (Vincent Cassell) is out for revenge after his girlfriend Alex has been brutally raped and beaten by a local bad boy known as The Tenia. Along for the bitter hunt for revenge is Pierre (Albert Dupontel), Alex’s former boyfriend, friend of Marcus and still holding a flame for his ex lover. He is the voice of reason, and tries to get Marcus to see sense, but some local’s who feel the police do nothing help Marcus on his hunt to find The Tenia.
The Rectum is a horrible, seedy place, and Noe builds the claustrophobic tension with the use of a low frequency horn sound and the result is incredibly powerful. You will already be on edge before Marcus finds his man, and the resulting fight is extremely well filmed by Noe. Marcus has his arm broke and Noe’s terrific use of camera work really do make this look real. Marcus is losing, the man on top of him is about to rape him in front of a large group of men all cheering him on. Pierra flips, he has had enough, and he appears at the side of the screen, fire extinguisher in hands…
What follows is truly sickening, extremely hard to watch, and goes to show just how far revenge can go, and how bad things can really turn out. Pierre persists in bashing his ‘victim’ over and over again with the fire extinguisher: he drives the weapon into the man’s face until it is literally a bloody pulp, a mess of blood, skin and bones, completely unrecognisable. What really chills is how Pierre then proceeds to simply take a final few swings at his already dead target…
Noe has put together one of the most vicious, savage and violent deaths ever committed to the screen, and his expert use of camera angles make the scene look totally believable. There are no cut-aways, and when you see the victim scream out in pain, or his bottom jaw move while there is barely anything left of his face, you will believe that what you are witnessing is real. The DVD comes with a brilliant, in depth look at just how this scene was put together, but even after seeing how it was done, it is still painfully effective.
However, probably even more shocking as the film goes on, is the realisation that Marcus and Pierre got the wrong man. The Tenia was there, but someone else decided to walk away while Marcus picks a fight, and Marcus assumed the man walking away was his man… he wasn’t and the little smile of The Tenia’s face as he looks on, watching his friend die, it utterly chilling and is Gaspar Noe’s final punch in the guts to all those seeking revenge. Nothing good will come of it, and many many lives will be destroyed. However, what Noe is also pointing out in his film is how one, savage act of sexual violence can affect, and ultimately destroy many lives, and the most frightening thing about Irreversible is it simply asks the question: if you had made a different decision, things may have turned out better.
I could go on and on about the events and how they unfold and how things could have been different, but I mustn’t. This is about celebrating (if you can call it that) one of the most horrific deaths ever put on screen, check it out below…
By Matt Wavish