The most famous shot in Gaspar Noë’s agonizing Irréversible shows a woman in an underground passage in Paris being raped while the camera remains nearly static in front of her, and we helplessly watch her face as she endures relentless brutality. There is a similar shot near the beginning of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, in which we see the formerly freeman Solomon Northup strapped in chains to the floor of a small cell, kneeling toward a barred opening in the wall, and being beaten again and again — so hard, in fact, that the implements break upon his back — by a slave owner who bought him from money-hungry kidnappers.
McQueen’s film has been roundly praised and created such buzz that it is currently among the three favorites (along with American Hustle and Gravity) to walk away with the Academy Award for Best Picture at the upcoming Oscar ceremony March 2. While not without its minor faults, the film is a powerful portrayal of one man’s journey into slavery and is a much-needed improvement over recent films that dealt with the unequal rights of African Americans in U.S. history, such as The Butler.
For the full movie review, please visit The Prague Post.