The reverse chronology in Gaspar Noé’s ‘Irreversible’, which gets an Out of Competition screening at Venice 2019

Posted on August 16, 2019


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Talking about Memento (2000) in a Creative Screenwriting interview, Christopher Nolan said that he and his brother Jonathan (who came up with the story) felt that the most interesting approach was to tell the story from the first person point of view, putting the audience right in the mind of the protagonist. But how? “How do I tell a first person story through the eyes of someone who, when he meets someone, does not know when or how they’ve met [before] or whether that person should be trusted? The answer was to put the audience in that position.” Nolan’s solution was to tell the story backwards, so that it denied the audience the information that the protagonist is denied. It works. We are exactly in the protagonist’s position when he says, for instance (see clip below), “I lie here not knowing how long I’ve been alone… How am I supposed to heal if I can’t feel time?”

Time is at the centre of Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible (2002), too. The film opens and closes with the line “Time destroys all things,” and this story, too, is narrated in a reverse chronological order. Why this peculiar choice for a film about a pregnant woman who ends up brutally raped. We first see her boyfriend bashing up the assailant, then see him search for this assailant, then see him realise his girlfriend has been assaulted, then see the assault, then see the couple at a party, then see them in bed (in a wonderfully romantic stretch), and then see the woman use a pregnancy test and watch it turn positive. Would we not (emotionally) respond to the rape better if we know this woman, know that she is pregnant, rather than meet her, first, as an unknown female who is assaulted?

Continued at the link above.

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