Review Date: June 03, 2002
Director: Gaspar Noé
Writer: Gaspar Noé
Producers: Christophe Rossignon
Vincent Cassel as Marcus
Monica Belluci as Alex
Albert Dupontel as Pierre
Anyway, I don't think that I can really overstress this point enough, but the camera work in this film is beyond "hand-held". The first twenty minutes or so features the camera constantly, and I mean, constantly...moving, bobbing, weaving, turning round and round and round...twisting, focusing, unfocusing, featuring nothing, featuring everything...basically everything and the kitchen sink, and yet it really doesn't give you a focused sense of anything on-screen. Thankfully, there were English subtitles to keep me up with the so-called "story" up to that point, and once I got past the initial twenty minutes, things actually settled down, both visually and story-wise, and I started to get the gist of where it was all going (the story is told from front to back like in MEMENTO). Certain narrative points moving forward also helped clarify some of the motivations behind the earlier camera work. The actors were all very good as well, especially Vincent Cassel and Monica Belucci (married in real life), who herself is featured in a 10-minute rape/beating scene (uncut), which can only be described as one of the harshest scenes that I've ever had to witness on-screen. It's brutal, painful and downright disgusting. Does it need to be shown? Well, it certainly doesn't need to be shown like this in every film, but you know what...this kind of crap tragically happens in the real world every day, so it does need to be "put out there" from time to time. Just to keep people awake and hopefully some others...alive.
But that scene wasn't the most brutal one in the film for me. Like I said before, the first twenty minutes of the picture were extremely chaotic, but once the conclusion of that session was reached, there was yet another extremely graphic and devastating scene to endure. I won't give away much here, but the sequence features a fire extinguisher and a very angry man. 'Nuff said. It is truly one of the most powerful scenes that I have really "felt" as an audience member. It was almost as if I was the one at the receiving end of that melee. Truly heinous. Again, not something that I would want to see in every film, but as later explained, certainly a sequence which "pays off" in respect to the characters' motivations. The story is a very basic one, but the fact that it was told from front to back, made it that much more invigorating for me as well. Just like in MEMENTO, it featured more surprises that way and I started to relate more and more as the film progressed. It also features a lot of nudity, sex and more cocks than your average porno flick, so once more, squeamish stomachs stay away. Homosexual undertones and overtones also run rampant throughout. And even though it's basically just a tale of revenge, you ultimately start to feel and sympathize with the characters, partly because of the great actors and their improvised dialogue, which is both interesting and believable, and partly because of the fucked up camera work, which was frustrating overall, but did at the same time, project an original point of view onto the proceedings.
The opening credits are also very unique, the score overwhelming and extremely fitting to the wicked events within (think "droning sounds" a la LOST HIGHWAY) and it all ends on a very bizarre, trippy, yet somehow, ideal sequence which fucks with your senses even more. This movie is depressing. This movie is pessimistic ("Time destroys everything"). This movie is over-the-top and infuriating at times. But in the end, I thought the story, some of the creative style utilized, the actors, the method by which it was told and the overall message was enough to consider it a success on some very fucked up level. The play between the two men was also well handled (who is the real animal?). One thing is for sure and that is that you will likely never forget this movie, and I guess that's saying something. Just remember that everything you do in life, every word, every action, every day...affects the next, and ultimately: nothing is irreversible. Not for the kids or mom and dad, and definitely NOT FOR THE WEAK OF HEART OR STOMACH!