I don’t usually use this size, but this blog is going to deal with plot details of a movie that is controversial and involves action that could make people feel uncomfortable.
So, this is your combination spoiler alert and warning for those who don’t want to read about Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible. I am not really going to do a plot summary for it, or deal with the particulars, because it is best experienced on it’s own terms, but I wouldn’t want someone to go into it without knowing that it is a brutally violent and difficult movie. I think it has value as a springboard for conversation, and I think that it is a formidable movie, but I also recognize that it deals with a difficult subject matter. So, in short, it’s a movie that I am glad I watched, but if you have any apprehension about watching it, you shouldn’t. Choose to watch something else.
This has been the hardest of these to write so far.
For two reasons, really. First, this movie is designed to be watched in a complete vacuum, drawing you into the mystery of the world and into the film with as little context as possible. It is a work of art that is experienced, not watched.
The second reason is that I have difficulty recommending this film to anyone. This film is designed to be terrible and evil. You are a witness to one of the most deplorable acts on film, the consequences and antecedents to that act, and one of the saddest endings that has ever been filmed. It is a movie that in a better world would not have any reason to exist.
This is a movie that completely engrossed me on my first viewing. I was drawn in by the mysterious nature of the movie, the presentation and the style of filming. The camera doesn’t just move, it reels around the characters and conversations. It creates more tension by continually moving than most movies can manage. You are put off balance by it. Each subsequent scene takes advantage of this off balance feeling in the audience, and once you realize what is going on, you have arrived at the most terrible thing I have ever seen on film.
Why watch something this deplorable?
Admittedly, this review is going to be a warning to people who haven’t seen the movie. I am describing this movie in terms that are vague and threatening, and I will continue to do so, because it is important for this piece of art. I am not one who believes in spoilers as a terrible thing. I actually think that spoilers can make you appreciate films more because you are then able to see what is going to happen coming. The hints and preludes of everything are there for you to appreciate.
Why would anyone subject themselves to watching such a terrible act? Well, I found the movie to be quite moving. While terrible things happen in it, it is the opposite of a traditional story. It has an amazing ability to show the worst of humanity and to find the best things. The movie posits a world in which consequences come from actions, that violence and assault are terrible, and that the worst possible things are terrible. You understand where everything went wrong, and then you’re informed of how wrong it was before that. The movie shows beautiful images after terrible ones to make those images all the more horrifying.
If you are interested in this film, it is a completely terrible worthwhile experience. You will be moved, broken, and hurt by it. There are no more demonic scenes in movies than in this movie. The amount of terrible things you will see is very high, but, to me, it’s worth it. It is a great movie, and it changed my perspective on the world.
So, is confrontational art worth it?
I don’t know.
I’m having a great deal of trouble with this question right now, because I find that I am more emotionally open than I have been in the past. I find that experiences and images really hit me hard at the moment. I can appreciate a good movie for what it is, and I can divorce myself from the most brutal horror movies, but anything that has consequences and terrible treatment of others, I find to be overwhelming.
These kinds of films, difficult films, ugly films, are important though. They allow you to confront the most terrible aspects of the world through fresh eyes. They give you space to consider the worst possible outcomes, see the most terrible things, and try to empathize with those around you. One is forced to see the vileness and evil that is in the world. I think that makes you into a better person.
The other side though, where letting that evil come into your life is a detriment to you, is very real as well. I don’t ever want to make someone else feel uncomfortable, or feel like I am telling them what to do. I feel like it isn’t my buisness to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Emotions are important to me though, and I wouldn’t want someone to feel hurt or broken because of something that I have reccomended to them. Most of all, because so many people experience things like the terrible things in this movie.
Am I recommending watching Irreversible? I think so. I think if you feel up for it, you should watch it. It is sad, difficult, impossible, hard, evil, beautiful, well directed, nauseating, and strange. It is an ugly movie.
But in the end, for all the pain, the hurt, and the sadness, I have been changed by watching it.