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Le temps détruit tout - Time destructs everything 

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Surely any film that caused mass walkouts at the Cannes film festival deserves some kind of attention? Irreversible was already legendary long before it was released in the UK, primarily for the opening scene of graphic brutality and the horrifying rape that occupies the black heart of the picture. The newly liberal British censors took some time before concluding that it could be released uncut for cinematic exhibition, a brave decision that courted surprisingly little controversy considering the furore that surrounded Crash.

Adopting a style of telling similar to that in Memento, the film starts at the end, then works its way backwards to the beginning; so we see effect, then cause, and then pre-cause. Unlike Memento, however, this film’s design is not to boggle the mind, but rather to analyse violence, to show us the repulsive actuality of it, and then to force us to examine the hideous origins of it. Irreversible shows us a cyclical world of violence, followed by violence, followed by violence, a world that is terrifyingly recognisable as our own.

The opening twenty minutes literally drag us into the throbbing, neon-lit hell of the protagonist’s mind as he searches in the gloom for the mysterious Tapeworm, before battering him to a pulp in one of the most sickening scenes of brutality I have ever seen on screen. The camera whirls, never settling, refusing to give us an easy experience – this is life, this is hell, and we are in it. The story reverses back and we see the reason for the madness that opens the movie – the horrifying rape of the protagonist’s girlfriend in an underground passage. There’s no relief here either – the camera is static, so we are forced to observe every agonising minute of the ordeal. Look on, we are being told, this is life – ain’t it grand? And then back again, to the moments before these images of horror – a time of beauty, romance, love and continuation, but with the soul-destroying knowledge in our minds of everything that’s going to happen.

Irreversible is more than just a film – to watch it is to experience a literal descent into the abyss. Your stomach will clench, your eyes will water, and it may well be a ride that you wish to disembark. And that is your choice. But Irreversible is also true cinema – it has the power to sicken, disturb and move. It is a profound statement of the nature of humanity, and it is one of the most devastating films ever made. And it is truly incredible…

Greg Taylor

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Summer Term (35mm)