I'm not sure why we as horror fans, find it necessary to seek out the movies often deemed as "most shocking" or "most disturbing". Why do we need to be disturbed? Why do we need to sit ourselves down and force ourselves to watch something so unbelievably disgusting that we find it difficult to erase the thoughts from our minds? I suppose in a way we are like sadomasochists, submitting to the pain because deep down, somehow, it gives us satisfaction. Not that I'm satisfied right now, but the force that drives us to seek out these movies almost always accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that says something.
For me, seeking out these movies is more like a test of my strength as a film goer. I find that seeing films from the most disturbing list offers a sort of protection against everything else. Whenever I am forced to watch some brutally gory film I can always say to myself--at least you aren't watching someone eat a giant plate of steaming poop or--at least you aren't watching a real turtle get killed.
Alright fine if I must be honest, I suppose the true reason I seek out these films is my curiosity. We need to know for ourselves if they are really as disturbing as the rest of the world has made them out to be. Their notorious scenes of rape and seemingly realistic snuff film portrayals would be nothing if someone didn't have the urge to kill a baby after viewing them.
But being "disturbed" is such a heavy kind of word. I mean--to really cause someone to be disturbed is a serious description of the mind. In mental illness terms, defining someone as disturbed is saying that the individual is impaired in the mind. A disturbed individual's impairment drastically interferes with major life activities. I'm talking about eating, sleeping, bathing or the ability to function in social, familial or educational contexts. We're talking MAJOR effects here people. But we have in a much more minor way been disturbed by these movies. I do actually find it hard to function in a social context when all I can think about is how horrifying a 15 minute butt rape was.
Irreversible is on that list of disturbing movies because it does feature a 15 minute ass raping scene. It is however also on that list because it also shows the bleak inner workings of a gay S&M club called The Rectum. Pure terror is not seen until you witness a man violently fisting himself.....believe me. Something that sets Irreversible apart from some of the other more disturbing movies however, is that I find it to be entirely thought provoking and even extremely artistic. It's a film that works on so many levels that you need to hold your head to keep it from spinning. I find that I have a hard time with people that write movies off because they contain brutal rape scenes. Yes, some movies don't have a point to a rape scene--it's sole purpose being merely to shock its viewers. Irreversible does however have a point and the rape in the film is an integral part of the story.
The film is one of those confusing backwards films. Beginning with presumably the end of the film, and ending at the beginning--Irreversible weaves a twisted tale of revenge. After Marcus finds his girlfriend to be raped and beaten into coma status, he goes on a mad search to find the man that did it. That's pretty much the plot, but the film turns it into this gigantic maze of chaos. We begin with two men on a bed in their underwear discussing a disgusting past sex crime. One of these men happens to be "The Butcher" from the director's previous film I Stand Alone. After that we are shown Marcus bloody and on a stretcher, while another man is led out of the club wearing handcuffs. Next we are led through the gay sex club while Marcus relentlessly searches for a man named le Tenia (The Tapeworm.... ew). This search ends in one of the most violent and difficult to watch face bashing scenes I have ever witnessed. I was in complete and utter shock and was convinced for at least 5 minutes that he was actually hitting that man in the face with a fire extinguisher.
After this the plot only gets more chaotic, yet it starts to iron out some of the larger questions that we form in our heads. Before long we arrive at the infamous rape sequence and while it is incredibly horrific the weight of it all is heavier due to everything we have witnessed prior to this. Because we know what the end result is--the film gets that much more shocking, especially if you take note of who is getting beat with the fire extinguisher and who is close by watching.
Irreversible is one of the more interesting movie watching experiences that I've had. I began feeling marginally annoyed and bothered by the seemingly loud and flashy style of filming. Much of the beginning, up until after the rape scene is filmed on what feels like a home video camera, shakes, quakes and all. Not that I wanted to see the gay sex club in clear, and steady pictures--but not feeling like I wanted to puke could have been a plus.
Then, as things progressed my ears kind of started to perk up. The film was getting quieter and quieter as it moved along. Things began gently unfolding instead of getting yanked apart. This goes on till we are left with one of the most moving and unusual final scenes I have ever seen. It is in these final moments that the entire film begins to make sense. It's like the world suddenly becomes clearer, and we get it.
It's really a genius piece of film making if I may so. Sure, I may get accused of finding rape genius--but hopefully things won't come to that. This is what is genius: the story is structured by the very theme that keeps it running. How many films do you know that do that? Here is a theme; the irreversibility of our actions. The film plays the events in reverse almost as a way to reverse them. These events however are---irreversible. No matter what, what happened to that woman in the tunnel will never be erased. Just like no matter what we do we cannot reverse the fact that we watched this and that we saw a she-male's penis up close and personal. It's all so frickin mind boggling that it hurts! I don't want to talk about it too much more because I think it's a film that must be seen before it is talked about.
If you know you can handle a truly gruesome and relentlessly heavy and at times damaging to your eyes film--give Irreversible a shot. I will maintain till my dying day that the film has something to say, and that the way in which it says it is purely genius. I don't care who decides to hate me. See it for yourself and talk to me later.
Great stuff Andre. I agree pretty wholeheartedly with your take. That last scene between Bellucci and Cassell--both so great in this film--is so sweet and sad and beautiful and horrible and all those things. It really is a fantastic piece of filmmaking.
Have you seen I Stand Alone?
Thanks Em. I actually have not seen I Stand Alone, but kind of want to after that opening scene. I find separate movie to movie connections so fascinating. Reminds me of Suicide Club and Noriko's Dinner Table. I think I will have to check this one out, even though sex with a daughter sounds absolutely horrific.
I haven't seen anything more upsetting than Irreversible myself, and as you noted, it seems as though I'm compelled to try and see every disgusting thing out there, uh, just because. My brother put it this way: "Irreversible brings the ick factor more than any other movie ever". I don't know that I'll ever want to see it again, but it's had more of an impact on me that 99% of all movies I've ever seen.
I Stand Alone is pretty damn good, too, although nihilistic and disturbing. My brother and I are going to see the new Gaspar Noe film Enter the Void tomorrow night...hopefully I won't be regretting saying this after I see it, but for now, I can't wait!
What really got me twisted about this film was that it seemed to have such a happy ending! Until you realized, that's not the ending! It's the beginning, which just happens to be at the end! We already saw the ending at the beginning and it wasn't happy, it was terrible! And it's easy to walk away feeling good when a movie has a happy ending; but its difficult to do the same just because a movie has a happy beginning, even if it DID come at the end. Especially if you saw the beginning and already know how it ended.
Or something like that.
watching someone sticking their own hand up their ass may be considered artistic. it does depend on the viewpoints involved i guess. esp if it's your own ass...
i liked ichi the killer. i believe that altho confronting, violent, shocking and mysogynistic, there is still a "beauty" involved in the way the story is told. right or wrong.
but then again, eli roth loves takashi miike's films too.
am i in bad company?
This film is quite the endurance test and one of those that I don't think I can make it through a second time. I actually felt sick for a while after watching it.
However, I agree with you on all points that it is a staggering work of art. I also love the confrontation I get from watching "shocking" films, even if it's in the relative safety of my home.
Arthouse exploitation is a strange thing.
Emilly is right, I Stand Alone is a powerful film and I hear good things about Gaspar Noe's newest one Enter the Void.
Excellent Andre. I think, the majority of the time, horror fans have a pretty open mind when it comes to shocking or disturbing cinema. Personally, I like to be shocked or disturbed, because it's a nice reminder of the power of film.
Irreversible is amazing, and I'm pleased you think it is too. I know a lot of people who dismiss it purely because of that horrific rape scene, but the visuals and the story and the themes all tie together so well that it is seriously talented filmmaking. It's definitely a film that will stick with you.
When I was about 15, I randomly rented Irreversible and decided to watch it with my mom. I hadn't the slightest idea what the film was about or how graphic it was, so you can imagine my terribly uncomfortable surprise when the rape scene starts. We made it through the fire extinguisher bashing but my mom insisted on turning it off when the raping began. So yeah, kind of awkward.
I agree with your thoughts on "disturbing" films though. I'm always seeking them out as some kind of endurance test or to see if they're really as bad as people say. Generally, I can sit through anything but I've been hesitant to watch A Serbian Film, which has been sitting on my hard drive for over a month. Everything I've read and everything I already know about the plot really points to this being the granddaddy of disturbing films. Yet, I'm intrigued.
What does that fascination say about us?
Glad to see that you enjoyed it... as much as one can enjoy a film like Irreversible anyway.
Don't forget about the sound effects used during the rape scene. What drove me to watch it was that. It was a sound experiment that really works in my opinion. If you turn it up and listen to it in surround sound it will help to make you feel queasy and nauseated (which is what a long ago experiment on sound proved they could use it for) I think the director was a genius to use it especially in that scene and it REALLY WORKS! Try it!
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