Dir: Gaspar Noé, France. 2009. 163mins.
Almost defying definition in contemporary cinematic terms, Gaspar Noe’s third feature film Enter The Void is a wild, hallucinatory mindfuck for adults which sees the director explore new shooting techniques and ambitious special effects to capture a young man’s journey after death. More experience than narrative, it runs to a massive 163 minutes, meandering and careening in and out of story and into visual realms and moods that are nothing short of hypnotic. It is a film that will instantly achieve cult status among young adults. If audiences care to, they can lose themselves in Noe’s images and trip on his imagination. If they don’t, they will be bored to tears.
“The film defies cinema convention in every way. It is almost like an adult video game with no rules”
Bound to divide critics and audiences as decisively as 2002’s Irreversible, Enter The Void is clearly the work of a visionary mind who plunges into darkness literally and thematically at any given opportunity. Scenes here – from the graphic performance of an abortion to extensive drug use, violence and frequent, explicit sex acts – will render it a limited distribution prospect with the most prohibitive censorship ratings available. But with his first two features Seul Contre Tous and Irreversible, Noe has built a loyal following bound to lap up his latest no-holds-barred opus. Life on DVD could be even more profitable, and adventurous viewers will no doubt adopt the film as an accompaniment for booze and drugs use.
Still unfinished in its Cannes competition screening – and 13 minutes longer than the festival had advertised – Enter The Void begins from the subjective vision of the lead character, an American slacker and budding drug dealer called Oscar (Brown) living in Tokyo, complete with blinks that block out the image every few seconds. 30 minutes into the film, he is killed and from then on the characters and buildings are viewed from above as if he is watching.
Noe’s use of crane shots both in Tokyo, in studios and in modelwork is staggeringly original, and he tracks characters through the city by speeding over the buildings from aerial vantage points.
The film starts as Oscar’s sister Linda (the ever-naked De La Huerta) leaves the apartment they share to go to work and he then experiments with DMT – a drug which occurs in the brain during an accident or at point of death. While he is in mid-trip (which Noe visualises using animated spirals), Oscar gets a phone call from his English friend Victor (Alexander) asking him to bring his drugs to a local bar called The Void. He is joined by his Alex (Cyril Roy), a drug buddy of Oscar’s whom Linda disapproves of.
But when Oscar walks into the bar, he realises that it is a setup and the police chase him into the toilet, eventually shooting him dead.
From then on, Oscar’s spirit can only observe as Alex goes on the run from the police, Linda falls apart after his death and finds that she is pregnant by her clubowner boyfriend Mario (Masato Tanno) and Victor is racked by guilt at his role in the incident.
But Noe also tracks back in time, to Oscar and Linda’s childhood where we see the horrific car crash which killed their parents, and to the days leading up to Oscar’s death in which Victor finds out that Oscar slept with his mother.
As the film enters its third hour, the plot goes out of focus as the film starts to explore sexuality and the creation of new life. A lengthy final sequence tracks couples having sex in Love Hotel (a studio creation based on the Japanese concept of love hotels) and new life is created. Indeed Noe actually shows us the penis ejaculating into the vagina in full frame glory.
The characters are all fairly uninteresting and some are indeed loathsome, but that is not the point. The film defies cinema convention in every way. It is almost like an adult video game with no rules, or an art installation which evolves into something immersive and sensory. One thing is certain. Spiked with all the tricks, sound effects and technological invention at Noe’s disposal, Enter The Void is a trip.
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Emily Alyn Lind