A Decade In Films – Why ‘Irreversible’ Was The Best Film Of 2003

2003. The year that University spat me from its motherly vagina, kicking and screaming into the real world. Armed with a trusty 2.1 in Film Studies (impressed?), the world was my proverbial oyster. “At what should I lay my hands?” I cried to the ethereal heavens. “I hear the local multiplex is hiring” they replied.

Six years later and I’m still at that cinema. Damn those ethereal heavens. But, hey, at least I now have a wealth of cinematic knowledge and snarky opinions about movies to help kill a few minutes of your lives. And anyway I love my job really.


So 2003, let it begin.

And begin it did. Less than 72 hours into 2003, ‘City Of God’ burst forth like a Superman cumshot through Lois Lane’s back, leading to every critic in the land coming up with a new way to say “It’s the South American Goodfellas!”. If I was writing at the time I would have gone with “Pileggi with Pinatis” and everybody would have laughed at my pseudo-racism. But I wasn’t. So they didn’t.

Tarantino came across the idea of splitting movies into two halves, a move that has since been praised by every studio ever as ‘The Greatest Idea Since The Prequel’, with ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1.’ Although I’ve never actually heard anyone call it Vol. rather than Volume and if I did I think I’d lobotomise them with a Hattori Hanzo sword. We’d have to wait until Vol.2 for any substance but the style was in abundance. Oooh I should be a rapper.

Charlie Kaufman had a good year with the two adaptations in the form of ‘Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’ and ‘Adaptation’. The first being Mr. Clooney’s first foray into directing and the second being an adaptation of a book that was clearly unadaptable. So unadaptable (I like that word) that Charlie instead chose to put himself into the script, wanking and all. He’s a funny guy that Charlie.

Other films to note were major tear-fest ‘In America’, major fun-fest Pirates of The Caribbean and major shit-fest ‘Terminator 3’. We were also ‘treated’ to ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘The Matrix Revolutions’. The first stirred up a feeling of “Hey this could really go somewhere amazing and clever!”. The second stirred up a feeling of complete, unaldulterated anger that we ever had that feeling about the first.

The year ended, as it had done for the past 2 years, with ‘Lord Of The Rings’. This time the King was returning. Somehow I’d managed to go without knowing the ending to one of the most famous books of all time (usually by running out of a room every time it was mentioned) and so was left to marvel in wonder at just what would happen to Frodo and chums.

And what an ending it was. Every bloody one of them. Frodo’s dead, Frodo’s not dead, they’ve lost, they’ve won, the ring is destroyed, Frodo’s kinda dead cause he’s going off to ‘heaven’ in a little row boat, Aragorn’s shaved, no good guys have actually died, Sam isn’t gay he has a wife, yeah but so did Elton John, maybe Sam is gay, oooh Annie Lennox. Great stuff.

My Film Of The Year
Once I was asked by my good friend, and international photography playboy, Christopher Blythe whether or not he should take magic mushrooms. I responded by turning into Swiss Tony and stating, “Taking psilocybin mushrooms is a lot like watching the movie ‘Irreversible’. An incredible, almost life-altering experience but not one that I’d wish to repeat”.


‘Irreversible’ is one of those rare films that holds no entertainment value whatsoever but can easily be described as a work of art. Now what a work of art is, is open to debate, but for me its something that makes you angry, makes you sad, makes you joyful, but most importantly makes you feel something. And detractors or champions of ‘Irreversible’ can agree that it most definitely makes you feel something.


To the uninitiated ‘Irreversible’ is a French movie staring Vincent Cassel and Monica Belucci, directed by Gasper Noe. When it hit the Cannes film festival it recieved a record number of walkouts and cries of “Gasper Noe, we’re gonna find you and fuck you up”. This last piece was from lead actor Cassel’s own brother.

The reason for this response, after an opening gambit that bleakly states “Time destroys everything”, the audience then witnesses one of the most horrific murders ever commited to celluloid featuring the wrong use of a fire extinguisher. This is then followed by the savage beating and rape of the lead actress. For 10 minutes. From a static camera.

Now if I was to tell you that the film is one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I’d ever seen you’d rightly want to call the police and have me put in a place where my words can no longer be read by human beings. But the thing is, ‘Irreversible’ is one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen. And this is down to one important factor. The film is told in reverse.

You endure the most uncomfortable viewing of your entire life for the ‘ending’ where a breath of humanity is finally given its turn. You hold onto that final scene for days on end as if it were the last air bubble in an upturned boat.

By choosing this as my favourite film of 2003 I’m not trying to court controversy, I know that many people will find it impossible to watch. To be honest I’m not even recommending it as a viewing experience. But for me it was one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen. And while I will never watch it again I genuinely believe its impact and its importance makes it a worthy inclusion in the history of cinema.

Oh and my friend Chris, he never did try those mushrooms. I wonder why.