20 years later, the ‘irreversible’ breach continues to sicken viewers

It was nine minutes of pure, uninterrupted terror that made many moviegoers decide to leave the theater immediately. It is still, two decades later, considered one of the most shocking scenes recorded for a film.

During this period, Monica Bellucci is threatened, insulted, sexually abused, sodomized and violently assaulted – in one long take without any cuts or interruptions. The decrepit red tunnel has become a symbol of violence “Irreversible”, interpreted by Gaspar Noebut also in a risky career choice on the part of the Italian actress, who was then beginning to be a reference name in international cinema.

In the end, it turned out to be the right choice. At 57, the Italian remains on top with a remarkable career and is about to release a new film, “Memory of an Assassin”. The action production stars Liam Neeson as a principled assassin who ends up becoming a target for the mob.

Monica Bellucci is one of the protagonists of this remake of a novel by Belgian author Jef Geeraerts – a film which will be released in theaters this Thursday, May 19. With more than 50 films to her credit, the actress can’t complain about her notoriety, though few scenes have gained notoriety from those controversial nine minutes.

Franco-Argentinian director Gaspar Noé was at the start of his career and “Irreversível” was only his second feature film. Known for his penchant for shocking themes and scenes, the director and screenwriter decided to tell the story from the end to the beginning — two years earlier, Christopher Nolan had released his “Memento” in the same format, with a large hit. At the moment, Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci were the sensational couple in Europe

Despite his light curriculum, Noé’s avant-garde vision makes him a desirable director. “I met Vincent at a club. ‘What are you doing? Monica and I would like to work with you,’ he said to me. I explained to him that I had a project but he was now too famous to be able to accept it”, remembers the scenario writer with “Dizzy”.

“I told them it was a love story between a boy and a girl gone wrong, I wanted it to be something very sexual because that’s the essence of passion for people of that age.

The truth is, Cassel wasn’t at all too famous to accept it. The couple agreed to join Noah. “We must remember that they formed the magic couple of French cinema, like Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise. [nos Estados Unidos]. If they said yes, the movie could be made. The producers did not even hesitate to make “a love story” between Cassel and Bellucci in the cinema.

However, Bellucci and Cassel had one condition: they would work with the director but not on a project that would reveal their intimacy with the couple. There would be no nude scenes between the two. “Their relationship and their intimacy was the little they had left of their private life (…) They thought they would not be prepared for this”, he noted, before deciding to change the direction of the project. They had everything in place except a story. It was then that the idea of ​​”Irreversible” was born.

“Very quickly I had the idea and we dropped the explicit sex. They agreed. And I even managed to get the Albert Dupotel, another famous French actor. We had three big names, a lesser-known director, and we ventured into this reverse-told “rape revenge” movie.

Cassel is Marcus, Dupontel is Pierre and Bellucci is Alex. The three form a kind of love triangle that features a traumatic night in the French capital and whose events are triggered by a troubled party that culminates in the shocking rape of Alex. Until he gets there, the viewer begins with the story’s controversial ending, which is revealed in a dozen long takes without any cuts.

The year of its theatrical release, it competed in Cannes for the Palme d’Or, which it would eventually win. Not without having first toured the reception he received at the festival. The screening, carefully timed for a private screening after midnight, had an unexpected impact on the audience. According to hurry, approximately 200 people will have left the room during the rape scene. The emergency services will even have attended nearly 20 spectators.

The shock may have led, according to the media covering the event, to the fact that some members of the selection committee threatened to be fired if the film was among the nominees for the grand prize. On the other hand, the artistic director of the festival, Thierry Fremaux, will have taken the opposite position: he would resign if Noé’s film could not compete.

Palme d’Or in the pocket, the film ended up attracting millions of curious people to cinemas, as it traveled to theaters in different countries. Even in the face of warnings from many critics. “It will be the film of 2003 with the most people leaving the room,” assured Newsweek. “It’s such a violent and cruel film that most people won’t see it,” warned critic Roger Ebert, an avowed fan of the work.

“A painful exercise in voyeurism, provocation and pretension,” some exclaim. “A true outlaw work of art,” the others cheered. In the audience of “Irreversible”, there was no middle ground: either you loved him or you hated him.

In the United Kingdom, the entity that classifies the films had to resort to an unprecedented expedient: a forensic psychologist was hired to assess whether the production could even be shown in theaters. “If the UK decides to cut [cenas do filme], it will not be distributed. I don’t understand how they manage to ask for cuts when Cannes, the most bourgeois festival of all, has shown it (…) American films are much more dangerous than this when it comes to promoting the violence, power and arms,” Noah replied.

At the heart of the case was not only the rape scene, but the violent death of a character, whose skull is crushed using a fire extinguisher. But it was the nine minutes of the sexual assault that sparked the biggest arguments.

“The theme of the film was rape and I said it had to be as powerful as possible to be disgusting, to be useful.” confessed filmmaker. “If you put rape in a movie and you don’t show it, you’re hiding the whole purpose of it. If you portray it in a revolting way, you are helping to prevent it from happening. [na realidade]. As in “A Clockwork Orange”, they forced Malcolm McDowell to see horror images to force him to stop committing these types of actions. It is useful to display it.

If the scene was difficult to see, it was just as difficult to record. It took two days to get the final version right. During these two days, the violation was repeated at least six times.

“The results were excellent the first day, but even better the second. The actors were more comfortable with each other and were able to go further,” Noé tells “The Guardian”. “I didn’t know if [a cena] it lasted six, ten or 12 minutes. The whole scene was in his hands [Bellucci]even the guy who played the rapist was at his command. If she hadn’t wanted to do the scene like that, she would have said so. I admire him enormously for having chosen to take the scene so far.

It’s not just the violence that makes the scene hard to see. Noah takes no shortcuts. As the rapist releases the prostitute he was assaulting and focuses on Alex, the camera locks onto the couple, all alone in a dirty red tunnel.

At first, the rapist threatens her with a razor, before throwing her to the ground and, while covering her mouth, he undresses her. The breach occurs in real time, without outages; extends to the limit of discomfort. In the meantime, the man has time to inhale poppers, before finishing and releasing Alex, who is crawling somehow.

It’s nine long and painful minutes

Dissatisfied, the rapist returns to kick him in the face. On top of her again, this time closer to the camera, he grabs her by the hair and repeatedly smashes her face to the floor.

“There were no written dialogues [da cena]. Impossible to describe it. She is raped, the man breaks up and when she tries to run away, he starts beating him. That’s all I wrote [no argumento]. I would say that the scene was interpreted more by Monica than by me”, explains Noé. “I let them improvise, choose the timing.”

Bellucci to describe record the scene as a “hard to explain process”, something “very intimate and private”. “Vincent asked me if I wanted him to stay on set with me. I told him no,” the actress said in a 2003 interview. “We did six takes and each took about 15 to 20 minutes, because I had to leave the house, talk to the prostitute, enter the tunnel, witness the fight and finally the scene of the rape.

Without any detailed description in the argument, the moments were decided on the spot. “The day before the shoot, I asked Monica if it was okay if we proposed that the rape be anal instead of vaginal,” recalls Noé, before revealing a curious detail.

“We were looking at the footage on the editing table when I noticed that the penis wasn’t visible when he pulled it out, so I asked the special effects manager if I could make a digital penis. We did it in post-production and added blood,” he says. “Of course, I showed Monica everything to get her approval. It’s there, prominently, in the movie, and a lot of people think we did something really explicit. However, everyone in the film agreed and said, “If we want to do something shocking, it has to be shocking; and it will be soft when it has to be soft.”

Even so, Noah was still annoyed by the film’s reviews. “They were furious with the movie, they accuse it of misogyny, but that’s stupid, just like it’s stupid to accuse it of homophobia,” he says. We understand all the same who does not support the most violent scenes.

“I think people don’t leave the room because they’re bored but because they can’t take it. [as cenas]. Usually these surrenders happen at night, when we feel weakest. I myself left during a rape scene, because it happened in the middle of the film”, he notes, when asked about the option of putting a shocking scene at the beginning of “Irreversible”.

“I thought, well, if it happens in the middle of the movie, I don’t want to see what happens next. I guess a lot of people suspect that the end of my movie will be worse than the beginning, because that’s how movies climax works. In fact, if they stayed until the end, they would see something that would help erase those early images.

Bellucci, on the other hand, compares the work to others of high caliber. “For me, this movie is like ‘A Clockwork Orange’ or ‘Pi’. It’s like ‘Requiem for a Dream’, ‘Deliverance’ or Pasolini’s films. All these films are difficult to digest, but they make sense , a goal. “These films bother you because they take us deep inside and force us to see the monsters within us.”

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