Title: I Stand Alone (1998)
Director: Gaspar Noe
French film director Gaspar Noe always makes films that have this acid bleakness to them; they portray this unfiltered view of the world that is raw, powerful and ugly. He makes his films without any apologies whatsoever. It seems that his moto for making films is: you can’t take i? Then don’t watch it. I find this kind of film refreshing in its rawness when compared to the kinds of films made in America because there are no limitations as to what Noe will talk about. He has the benefit of not having to deal with a restrictive ratings system like the Motion Picture Association of America. And that’s just fine by me because in this way, foreign films can talk about things that don’t often get expressed, but need to be talked about. The themes explored in these kinds of films aren’t necessarily pretty, or uplifting, but then again, life isn’t that way all the time either. There are ugly, nasty things that happen in our world, not everything can have a happy ending, with the main characters riding on their horses, galloping towards the sunset.
I Stand Alone tells the story of an aging working class man (a Butcher to be precise) who has just lost his job. He has been trying non stop to find a new one, but the economy is so bad, and the unemployment rate so high, that he’s had no success. Plus, he isn’t exactly a young pup. Age is catching up with him. On top of that, he has to go back home to a wife and a mother in-law that he absolutely despises. Basically, this guy’s life is a living hell. One day, when he can’t take it anymore, he goes absolutely bonkers and runs away. How will he survive without a job? And just how dangerous will he turn under such strenuous living conditions? Can he retain his humanity, or will his wild savage human nature be set loose?
France looks kind of bleak in this movie
I cant honestly say that watching this movie was an enjoyable experience, because it wasn’t. Much like Noe’s Irreversible (2002) or his most recent film Enter the Void (2010), I Stand Alone is as bleak and as bitter as movies come. We follow a main character that is constantly narrating his acid outlook on life. Through a series of scattershot, lightning fast voice overs, the main character spits his hatred of the world onto us. And honestly, most of the time, the guy is right on the money as to how messed up the world is. He is a product of the system, the way things are set. In a way, the film is saying, our world is so messed up that it can create individuals who ooze hatred for the world out of every pore. What we have through out this whole film, is a guy who one day snaps and decides that it’s him against the world. This goes perfectly in synch with the films original French title: “Alone Against All” And I loved the fact that we could hear the guys thoughts through out the whole film. Normally, this is something that is shunned at in the world of filmmaking, but there are also those films in which a voice over is necessary, and I Stand Alone was one of them. As the butcher walks we hear him complaining, when he takes the train, we hear him talking about the crazy people on the train. When he is about to kill himself, we hear his mental battle not to do it. Noe manage to turn the voice over into a valuable tool to tell his story in a gripping manner.
The butcher tries making connections with old friends, to see if at least one of them has some money they can lend him, but they are as poor as he is, struggling with what little money they do have to survive with. When the butcher sees the world closes one door after another on him, he turns so bitter thatl finally, he contemplates suicide. As you can see, the film just goes deeper and deeper into the sadness of this lonely, mentally unstable and completely desperate man. He tries to remain cool, but when faced with the prospect of being homeless, his actions turn even more desperate. So desperate will his actions turn, that the film actually gives you a 30 second warning near the ending of the film, letting you know that you still have thirty seconds to stop watching the film, because what you are going to be seeing next will be a bit tough to watch. This of course will make you want to do the complete opposite.
"You have 30 seconds to abandon the projection of this film"
Gaspar Noe is a very special director for me because he has a very strong voice, he says what he wants to say through his films, and it’s always going to be something extremely off putting about society. I have to give him respect for that. Aside from his awesome technical abilities as a filmmaker, he exposes the ugliest nastiest themes that nobody wants to talk about. Irreversible for example, explicitly explores rape. I Stand Alone explores the bleakness and desperation in the life of a jobless desperate man. Enter the Void explores the life of a junky, and the pitfalls and dangers of choosing to live this kind of life. To top things off, we also get a good look at the junkies twisted sex life. And speaking of twisted sex lives, I Stand Alone also explores its main characters sexual desires. It seems Noe wants to expose just how crazy us humans can get when it comes to sex. The crazy things that sexual desires will make people do. Bottom line is, if you can’t take movies that deal with incest, then don’t bother with this one. But hey, the way I see it, this kind of thing happens in the world more often then we’d like to think. It’s an ugly part of human behavior that needs to be talked about, openly. Other films that talk about uncomfortable subject matter are Oldboy (2003), which explores incest, Happiness (1998) and Little Children (2006) both of which explore the theme of pedophilia.
This was Gaspar Noe’s first feature film and with it, he demonstrated right from his beginnings that he was going to be a unique filmmaker that would explore themes and situations that are normally kept in taboo or secret, exposing and analyzing them so we can learn from them. Gaspar Noe would go on to make more amazing films after this one. His latest one, which has yet to be officially released, is called Enter the Void (2010). And let me tell you my friends, that is what I call a movie! Enter the Void was one of the most original cinematic experiences I’ve had in quite some time and I urge anyone out there who has a way to get a hold of it to get it as soon as they can! It’s the kind of film that will blow your mind! The innovative camera work Noe uses in all of his films blows me away every time. I Stand Alone has a couple of these innovative ways of telling a story, and it keeps the experience of watching I Stand Alone interesting. Ultimately, I Stand Alone isn’t an easy movie to digest, but it is a rewarding watch in the sense that it moves you, it shocks you and it will undoubtedly make you think. It might be an extremely bleak film, but it will most likely get an emotional response from those who venture to watch it.
Rating: 4 out of 5