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From the Wikipedia article for the movie, Memento:

The purpose of the fragmented reverse sequencing is to force the audience into a sympathetic experience of Leonard's defective short-term memory, where prior events are not recalled, since the audience has yet to see them.

What about Irréversible's reverse chronology?

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As the name suggests actions you make in life are irreversible, one action leads to another and you can't go back to change them.

This film analyzes what actions lead to the brutal actions of Marcus (Vincent Cassel).
Doing this in reverse order forces the viewer to reevaluate his view of Marcus, because in retrospect his actions can be justified by the unfortunate events that happened to him.

Shown in chronological order this film would be a "normal" revenge thriller but the reverse chronological order gives this film a special psychological aspect.

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  • SPOILERS It makes you consider their brutal act of revenge before you know why they carry it out. It also makes you consider Alex's beauty and happiness about her pregnancy after you know what happens to her. Note that you really don't get a good look at her face until after the scene of her attack.
    – ruffdove
    Sep 9 at 14:25

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