For other uses, see Irreversible (disambiguation).

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gaspar Noé
Produced by
Written by Gaspar Noé
Music by Thomas Bangalter
Edited by Gaspar Noé
Distributed by Mars Distribution (France)
Lions Gate Films (United States)
Release dates
  • 22 May 2002 (2002-05-22)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Country France
  • French
  • English
  • Italian
  • Spanish
Budget €4.6 million
Box office €5.8 million[2][3]

Irréversible (French pronunciation: [iʁevɛʁsibl]) is a 2002 French art drama film written and directed by Gaspar Noé and starring Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel. The film employs a non-linear narrative and follows two men through the streets of Paris as they seek to avenge a brutally raped girlfriend. The film's soundtrack was composed by the electronic musician Thomas Bangalter, best known as half of the Daft Punk duo.

American film critic Roger Ebert called it "a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable."[4] Irréversible competed at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and won the Stockholm International Film Festival's award for best film.

Irreversible has been associated with a series of films defined as the cinéma du corps ("cinema of the body"), which according to Palmer share affinities with certain avant-garde productions: an attenuated use of narrative, assaulting and often illegible cinematography, confrontational subject material, and a pervasive sense of social nihilism or despair.[5] Irreversible has also been associated with the New French Extremity movement.

The film was particularly controversial upon its release for its graphic portrayal of violence, specifically the scene where a man is savagely bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher and its 10-minute long take rape scene of Alex (Monica Bellucci). It had accusations of apparent homophobia as well.


Irréversible contains thirteen scenes presented in reverse chronological order. They are arranged here in chronological order.

  1. A young Italian woman living in France named Alex (Monica Bellucci) is reading An Experiment with Time by John William Dunne in a park, surrounded by playing children. Beethoven's 7th Symphony is heard in the background. The camera spins around faster and faster until it blacks out into a strobe effect, accompanied by a pulsing, roaring sound. A rapidly spinning image of the cosmos can be dimly perceived. A title card reads: "Le Temps Detruit Tout" ("Time destroys everything")  a phrase uttered in the film's first scene. The film ends.
  2. Alex sits on the bed clothed, her hand on her belly. A poster for Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, with the tagline "The Ultimate Trip," is above the headboard.
  3. Alex lies in bed with Marcus (Vincent Cassel) after having sex. Alex reveals she might be pregnant, and Marcus is pleased with the possibility. They prepare to go to a party, and Marcus leaves to buy wine. Alex takes a shower, then uses a home pregnancy test that confirms she is pregnant. She is elated.
  4. At a nearby Paris Métro station and aboard a subway train, Alex, Marcus, and Pierre (Albert Dupontel) are on their way to a party. They discuss sex and Pierre refers to the fact that he and Alex were once dating, but are no longer in a relationship. He implies that Marcus stole Alex from him.
  5. Alex, Marcus, and Pierre have arrived at the party. Alex is annoyed by Marcus's unrestrained use of drugs and alcohol and his flirtatious behavior with other women, and consequently decides to leave the party alone.
  6. On her way home, Alex sees a pimp called "Le Tenia" ("The Tapeworm") (Jo Prestia) beating a transsexual prostitute named Concha (Jaramillo) in a pedestrian underpass. Once the man sees Alex, he releases Concha and turns his attention to Alex, who attempts to flee, but Le Tenia catches her and threatens her with a knife. Le Tenia pins Alex to the ground and anally rapes her for several minutes of screentime, after which he brutally beats her into unconsciousness.
  7. Marcus and Pierre leave the party and encounter commotion on the street. Marcus wails as he discovers Alex's bloodied body being wheeled on a stretcher into an ambulance by paramedics.
  8. Alex is hospitalized and revealed to be comatose. Marcus and Pierre are questioned by the police. They then talk to a street thug named Mourad (Mourad Khima) and his friend Layde (Hellal). The two gangsters promise, if they get paid, to help them find the rapist, who Mourad claims is Le Tenia. Marcus and Pierre go looking for the man who raped Alex. Marcus is still high on drugs and very agitated.
  9. The men track down Concha, Le Tenia's last victim. At first, she refuses to talk to them. After Marcus threatens to slash her with a piece of broken glass, she identifies Le Tenia as the rapist and says he can be found at a gay BDSM nightclub called The Rectum. They are soon chased by angry sex workers seeking to defend Concha. Mourad and Layde run in a separate direction.
  10. Marcus and Pierre hail a taxi. Following a row, Marcus assaults the taxi driver and steals the car.
  11. Marcus and Pierre go to The Rectum, but do not know what Le Tenia looks like. Marcus finds Le Tenia standing with another man. Thinking the other man is Le Tenia, he assaults him, but the man wrestles Marcus to the ground, breaks Marcus's arm, and attempts to rape Marcus on the club floor. Pierre defends Marcus by using a fire extinguisher to crush the man's skull, thus killing him. Le Tenia  the source of all the havoc  stands there groggily, perhaps not believing he got away.
  12. Police arrest Pierre and put him in handcuffs. An ambulance arrives, and Marcus is put on a stretcher and taken from the club. Outside, Mourad and Layde shout homophobic insults at Pierre and Marcus. The murdered man is revealed not to be Le Tenia after all. Rather, the man standing next to him in the club was the real Le Tenia.
  13. Across the street in a small apartment, two men are talking about sex. One of them is "the Butcher," the protagonist of Noé's previous film, I Stand Alone. In a drunken monologue, the Butcher reveals that he was arrested for having sex with his own daughter. The subject of their discussion shifts to the commotion in the streets outside. Without looking out the window, they derisively attribute the commotion to the patrons of The Rectum. Outside, Mourad is seen talking to a police officer.



Noé first found financing for Irreversible after he pitched the story to be told in reverse, in order to capitalize on the popularity of Christopher Nolan's film Memento (2000).[6]

Irréversible was shot using a widescreen lighweight Minima Super16 mm camera.[7] The film consists of about a dozen apparently unbroken shots[8] melded together from hundreds of shots.[9] This included a 9-minute-long rape and sodomy scene,[10] portrayed in a single, unbroken shot.[11] Computer-generated imagery was used in post-production for the penis in the rape scene.[12] Another example is the scene where Pierre beats up a man's face and skull to pulp.[13] CGI was used to augment the results, as initial footage using a conventional latex dummy proved unconvincing.[14] During sixty minutes of its running time, the film uses extremely low-frequency sound to create a state of nausea and anxiety in the audience.[15]


Bellucci at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival

The film premiered in France on 22 May 2002 through Mars Distribution. It competed at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.[16] It was released in the United Kingdom on 31 January 2003 through Metro Tartan Distribution, and the United States on 7 March 2003 through Lions Gate Films. Audience reactions to both the rape scene and the murder scene have ranged from appreciation of their artistic merits to leaving the theater in disgust.[17] Newsweek's Ansen stated that "If outraged viewers (mostly women) at the Cannes Film Festival are any indication, this will be the most walked-out-of movie of 2003." In the same review, Ansen suggested that the film displayed "an adolescent pride in its own ugliness".[18]

Critical response to the film was divided with critics panning the film and others considering it one of the year's best. As of 2011, it held a score of 57% positive verdict from 120 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.7/10.[19] The American film critic Roger Ebert argued that the film's structure makes it inherently moral; that by presenting vengeance before the acts that inspire it, we are forced to process the vengeance first, and therefore think more deeply about its implications.[20]

The film won the top award, the Bronze Horse for best film, at the 2002 Stockholm International Film Festival. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Award by the Film Critics Circle of Australia. It was voted Best Foreign Language Film by the San Diego Film Critics Society, tied with Les Invasions Barbares. It grossed $792,200 from theatrical screenings.[21]


Film critic David Edelstein argues that "Irreversible might be the most homophobic movie ever made."[22] Noé's depiction of gay criminal Le Tenia inexplicably raping the female lead, Alex, remains the film's most controversial image. In his defense, Noé has stated, "I’m not homophobic," further stating that "I also appear in Irreversible, masturbating at the gay club," as a means of showing that "I didn't feel superior to gays."[23]

See also


  1. "IRREVERSIBLE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 2002-10-21. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  4. "Irreversible" 14 March 2003 Retrieved 30 March 2012
  5. Palmer, Tim (2011). Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, Wesleyan University Press, Middleton CT. ISBN 0-8195-6827-9.
  6. Kohn, Eric (6 August 2016). "Gaspar Noé Says All Directors Are 'Sucking D*cks For Financing' And Women Enjoyed 'Love' More Than Men". Retrieved 23 August 2016.
  7. Palmer, Tim (2014). Irreversible - Controversies. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-137-47862-7. Extract of page 77
  8. Sterritt, David (2005). Guiltless Pleasures: A David Sterritt Film Reader. University Press of Mississippi. p. 184. ISBN 978-1-57806-780-0.
  9. American Cinematographer, Volume 84, No 2-6. ASC Holding Corporation. 2003. p. 20.
  10. Brottman, Mikita (2005). Offensive Films (illustrated ed.). Vanderbilt University Press. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-8265-1491-2.
  11. Renga, Dana (2013). Unfinished Business: Screening the Italian Mafia in the New Millennium. University of Toronto Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-4426-1558-8. Extract of page 46
  12. Allmer, Patricia; Huxley, David; Brick, Emily (2012). European Nightmares: Horror Cinema in Europe Since the 1945 (illustrated ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-231-85008-7. Extract of page 83
  13. Palmer, Tim; Michael, Charlie (2013). Directoyr of World Cinema: France (illustrated ed.). Intellect Books. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-84150-563-3. Extract of page 22
  14. Palmer, Tim (2014). p. 88–90
  15. Wilson, Laura (2015). Spectatorship, Embodiment and Physicality in the Contemporary Mutilation Film (Illustrated ed.). Springer. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-1-137-44438-7. Extract of page 85
  16. "Festival de Cannes: Irréversible". Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  17. Metro Cinema: Irréversible
  18. David Ansen. "How Far Is Too Far?", Newsweek, March 3, 2003
  19. Rotten Tomatoes. "Irreversible", On October 27, 2010
  20. Roger Ebert. "Irreversible" at the Wayback Machine (archived 29 March 2010), March 14, 2003
  21. "Irreversible". Retrieved 2012-02-05.
  22. Edelstein, David (March 7, 2003). "Irreversible Errors". Slate. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  23. "'Enter the Void' Director Gaspar Noe Talks Sex, Drugs and Narrative Cinema". 2010-09-21. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
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