Writer / Director: Gaspar Noe
Stars: Vincent Cassel, Albert Dupontel, Monica Belluci, Jo Prestia, Phillipe Nahon, Stephane Drouot
This is a film that many will not want to watch.
Early on, I came as close as I ever do to turning a film off for any reason other than sheer boredom.
We are presented with a chaotic whirlwind of sound, light, profanity, and suggestive body placement as two men (Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel) frantically search for someone called Le Tenia (Jo Prestia) in an S&M club, capped off with a stunningly graphic (and technically impressive) sequence in which a man's head is beaten in repeatedly with a fire extinguisher in one long, seemingly unbroken shot.
All of this appeared to serve no purpose, just vile, ugly behavior below the level of an animal. I was sickened. But I stayed with it and I'm glad I did. It soon became apparent that the story was unfolding in reverse. As director Gaspar Noe follows his characters back to the beginning of this nightmarish evening--through an even more horrific and graphic rape scene, also presented in a single, unblinking take--and even earlier, we are able to process the violence. It becomes the tragic shadow that hangs over the lives of three likable people (Cassel, Dupontel, and the beautiful Monica Belluci) and forces us to contemplate our own lives. A similarly tragic shadow may hang over any one of us, but we are blessed with ignorance; otherwise, our lives would be unlivable. This is a serious film that does not employ violence as a payoff, but as a point of departure for consideration of the human condition.
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