There are many angles from which one could review this film, and I’m really not approaching it from any of them, as this isn’t a “review.”
Perhaps some could write off this film based on a simple belief that such violent images do not justify fictionalizing or photographing. In all honesty, I don’t dismiss this possibility, but I watched it, and it certainly effected me.
Formally, the abrasive (and at times bordering on gimicky) camera movements that act as a device for segmenting the film seem a bit overboard. Similarly, the “backwards” chronology gets somewhat tedious, though it does cause you to view certain events in an informed, or at least different, light.
The intention—and ultimate effect—are simple and efficient: by shaking the camera and disorienting the viewer, the long takes are all the more enthralling. The open-yet-serious treatment of sex (especially in the dialogue on the subway) remind me of other films released around the same time, such as Y tu Mama Tambien, which also includes long takes.
Long takes in some of my favorite contemporary films, such as You, the Living and Songs from the Second Floor, are meant to drown you in an epic, large scale symbolism, which unfolds slowly. The long takes in Irreversible are intimate, or more accurately, violating. (The infamous rape scene needs no description.) It’s a distinct use of long takes and quite unlike other films I’ve seen, and if anyone can direct me to comparable uses of the device (not the subject matter…), I’d be thankful.
If nothing else, this film is powerful, and the acting is outstanding. Cassel hasn’t let me down yet. And while this doesn’t qualify as a “review” in any sense of the term, it serves as a testament for the thought-provoking nature of the movie. It’s not every day that I watch a film and feel motivated to ramble on about it.