I have seen the movie Irreversible and I'm not sure what was the intended interpretation of the ending, or indeed whether there is one.

Warning: this whole question might be a big spoiler if you haven't seen the movie.

On the one hand, the whole movie is very clear to me, although it's being presented in reverse-chronological order. The main plot isn't hard to get. But the last scene and the metaphor shown at the end puzzled me.

In the last scene I could not understand whether:

  • She was pregnant.
  • It was before or after.

Maybe this was open to interpretation. If so, great, but I don't understand how this might fit into the movie or what it had to do with the storyline. It just feels an isolated scene to me.

It also occurred to me that this might be heaven due to the fact that she looked in peace and everything was very green and happy and children were running around, I can't see how this could fit into the movie either, and have no idea if it is a valid, reasonable interpretation.

It puzzled me even more the camera going up and the flashing lights and sounds, I have no idea what the intention of those were.

And my last interrogation would be on the ending phrase:

Time destroys everything.

As the final scene it just feels isolated from the movie. The way I see it, it was not time that destroyed the three characters life, rather someting circumstantial in a very limited time frame, where decisions, led to tragic events. The phrase gives me the impression of something long term, and this was something that went wrong very quickly. And in any case, what did it destroy, the three characters' lives?

As you may have noticed I'm no expert at interpreting, I'm sure many of these question may come as obvious to many of you, but (unfortunately) I'm used to more "easy" movies.

The thing is, I understand perfectly what a open ending is, and like to think which is more probable, but in this particular movie, I'm not sure whether it was an open ending, or if there is anything to interpret about these scenes. I am completely lost, and I'm unsure if this was the desired effect or if I am missing something.

closed as off-topic by FuzzyBoots, Donald.McLean, Matt Gutting, Moogle, Shevliaskovic Oct 13 '14 at 16:23

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  • I -REALLY- don't want to watch this movie again (as great as it is), but I interpreted the last scene as very obviously happening BEFORE the rest of the movie, really setting the tone and theme for the whole rest of the movie (if you were to see it in chronological order). – Rob Nov 25 '13 at 14:08
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about a movie which has no aspect of science fiction or fantasy. – FuzzyBoots Oct 13 '14 at 14:58

This is my own interpretation, but I believe Gaspar Noe was trying to express that, given enough time there are only unhappy endings and that the joy and happiness that you've experienced should be cherished.

I believe Gaspar Noe was trying to use the brutality that comes later (or at the beginning if you like) to highlight the "good" scenes (being intimate, loving, finding out she's pregnant). Instead of the film building to a tragedy, the horrible things that happen to the characters are exposed at the beginning and you know how things will end for them as you watch the remainder of the film. This leaves you to cherish the time the characters have with each other in spite of what you know is coming for them. So while there is a message of nihilism ("Time destroys all things") you are also left to appreciate the good that happens precisely because you know the tragedy that is about to unfold.

This being said, there is also the other (strong) possibility that Gaspar Noe was just being juvenile and using a heavy handed nihilistic message for some extra shock. From some of the online reviews I've found, this seems to be the consensus.

I believe Gaspar Noe is one of the best directors for our generation. I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of movies that feature rape and murder prominently. Irreversible is the only one where I was horrified by the depiction of both. It is an exceptional talent to take themes that are so pervasive in mainstream media and depict them in a realistic way that give you an appreciation for their inhumanity.

But I have a hard time reconciling the (what seem to me) obvious homophobic and juvenile themes of the movie. I believe that Gaspar Noe was trying to make a statement about an appreciation of life by juxtaposing what (I imagine) most people consider their happiest memories (sex with a loved one, finding out you're going to be a parent, socializing with friends) with the horrific events that would unfold. I also believe that he wanted to shock the audience in whatever manner he could. This includes the graphic rape and murder scenes, the transvestite prostitutes, the over-the-top gay club and the heavy handed message of "Time destroys all things".

No movie is perfect and no director is perfect. Unfortunately, the motivations for Mr. Noe to make such a brutally honest film also lead him to be sometimes heavy handed in his message.

I take the message of "Time destroys all things" at face value and pretty much dismiss it in light of the rest of the content of the film. I am, of course, perfectly happy to be convinced otherwise and would welcome anyone who believes there is something more profound to be taken away from this message.

  • This is an excellent answer. A great interpretation very clearly exposed. +1 and accepted answer. Thank you and welcome to Stack Exchange! – Trufa Apr 24 '11 at 20:59

I wish to add to that..

First .. the one thing I love about the chronology order ..is that ..it's exacly how we used to reason about events.. think about it..

It's the "true" natural order... when we think about the past we go back from our point in the present to the point in the past..

And when we reason about everything that's happened... we end up remembering the good times.. and reason about it comparing the heaven with the hell that came later..and what happened..and wonder why it happened..

So that vision of the movie.. it's the subjective time..

It's a genius touch.. truly.. it fits perfectly with the story..

Remember when Alex said about premonitory dreams.. and then .. in the bed afterwards or forward.. she talks about a dream entering a tunnel.. red tunnel.. and then it became apart in two ways.. meaning after she enters the tunnel.. her destiny or even herself.. her psyche would be broken in two.. never will be the same again..

"Time ruins everything" .. see.. in the beginning everything was perfect she was so happy and at peace..with a baby.. and as time passed and by one little event.. everything was ruined..

Noe got a point.. and a very strong one.. if you put that phrase in the front of the pyramids.. in the past.. reaching the sky..so big.. and see what it is now..

Watch old movies.. pretty girls.. get their actual pictures now?! When sons are kids and the parents are their heroes.. after they grow up... and hate their fathers..

When you are in love.. and live the most happy life you can dream of.. and as time goes on.. everything is ruined.. all you have are memories.. and kids if you are lucky.. and respect for one another.. that's all..

It's a strong truth..

Is there something that time can't ruin?? I guess we are here to find out.. and hoping to find the immortal truth.. what can stand against time?


Having thought about it for awhile (long enough to come dig around the Internet for other opinions) I have two theories for the ending/beginning.

1.) A theme of the film is prophetic dreams--- that destiny is set, and that irreversible fact is proved by dreams that reveal the destined future. We see her wake from and describe a dream prophesying the events in the red tunnel. The last scene, then, is a verdant dream that she is pregnant (as she unknowingly is), and the very end-- the strobe sequence-- is a metaphorical representation of the universal principle of Fate creating reality: the Original Source. This is the clearest interpretation, to me.

2.) Alternatively... the movie opens with the climatic event: the main male characters descending into murderous sin in a place definitely intended to resemble Hell. Perhaps it closes in Heaven. Consider: the strobe is the Infinite. A brief glimpse of a spiral galaxy is seen. Next: the camera (a consciousness, a soul) circles down into a rich, dreamy version of Earth, into a (more) solid spiraling sprinkler being circled by playing children, amidst an Elysian Field with many fertile women lounging about... alternative mothers, alternative lives to incarnate into. A choice is made. Next: the woman is laying in her bed. The camera tightens onto her belly, now inhabited by this consciousness. This theory is bolstered by the "2001" poster: in "2001", the movie ends with a similar "visual trip" signifying a soul incarnating into a higher "state".

Those are my thoughts. Nobody is reading this anymore, probably: it's an old film, now. But I still felt compelled to write this out, to satisfy my own provocation at the hands of this odd, challenging film.


It seems that the final scene takes places afterwards, but I'm of two minds regarding this. She is holding her stomach and it seems to be more pronounced in that scene, implying the passage of time, but it could simply be the way she is sitting. He face is also without blemish, so that would suggest she has healed since the rape, but would there have been enough time to heal? And the final shot offered no clarity to me. Regardless of whether the last scene takes place before or after the rest of the narrative, it serves as a pleasant, bright and colourful scene that is in sharp contrast to the rest of the film and in that context I thin it serves the same purpose regardless of where in the narrative it takes place. It shows us that there are moment to enjoy and moments that cause pain and to take pleasure in the moments that bring joy because the moments that cause pain will not allow you to feel anything but sorrow.

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