Irreversible review

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While Argentinian filmmaker Gaspar Noé is no stranger to controversy, his latest was causing a scandal before it even unspooled at Cannes 2002. Not hard to see why: that would be the nine-minute anal rape scene.

Told in reverse, à la Memento, Irréversible opens in the wake of a bloody murder. Two men, Marcus (Vincent Cassel) and Pierre (Albert Dupontel), trawl through the bowels of a gay S&M club searching for the pimp who raped Marcus' girlfriend Alex (Monica Bellucci). Their need for revenge culminates in the wrong man having his head beaten to a pulp.

Yet worse is to come. Forty-five minutes in, we witness the rape itself, a prolonged sequence of gut-wrenching brutality and violation. Make it through, however, and you'll leave strangely uplifted, the final third soothing nerves with its intimate, naked moments between Alex and Marcus.

Noé defends his film as being about real life, but inevitably it will polarise viewers into those who admire the intent and those who despise the result. But whatever your opinion, this is a remarkable, difficult and thought-provoking drama. You may not like Irréversible, but you definitely won't forget it.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.