Enter the Void (2009)
(18) Running Time: 164 minutes
Director: Gaspar Noe
Writers: Gaspar Noe, Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Starring: Nathaniel Brown, Paz De La Huerta, Cyril Roy
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Gaspar Noe, the visionary director of one of the finest examples of powerful, gut wrenching realism with Irreversible, and the man responsible for making you look at every stranger with fear after his debut I Stand Alone, has returned! Enter the Void is Noe’s first full length feature since Irreversible shook audiences to their very core, and when I say full length film, I mean full length. Clocking in at just over two and a half hours, Enter the Void is long, very long. Granted, there is a shorter version, but I believe if you are going to watch a film, then go with what the director intended. Now, where the hell do I start with this one? Let’s begin with the basic plot, and we’ll work from there!
Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is living in Tokyo with his sister Linda (Paz De La Huerta); the two are very close after a traumatic upbringing and a violent car crash which killed both their parents. Oscar is heavily into his drugs, especially DMT, and has just begun selling, while his sister is a stripper and part time prostitute. Living in the dazzling lights and energy of Tokyo, the two just exist in this land of fluorescent colours and flashing lights. One of Oscar’s best friends is Alex (Cyril Roy) and he has a crush on Linda, while Oscar has a thing for one of his drug dealing buddies Victor. Victor is a troubled young man whose parents bully him, and he feels a bit, well, worthless really. In a drug deal, cops are called in and Oscar is dramatically shot while hiding in a toilet cubicle and stupidly declaring he has a gun. Oscar dies, and for the next almost two hours, he floats around Tokyo watching his sister and best friend deal with their tragic loss, and the while looking back over his life and trying to make some sense of it all.
To be honest, there are hidden meanings and honesty in this film which I sadly missed on first watch and I can’t wait to see this again to try and make some sense out of it myself! However, there is no denying that Enter the Void is the greatest visual trip I have seen since 2001 A Space Odyssey went all psychedelic come the end. Noe has proved here that he is, without a doubt, one of the most talented and creative director’s in the business and I honestly have NEVER seen anything like this before. In fact, it is safe to say that I you happened to watch this film while taking acid, you just might have the trip of your life! Whether Noe intended for this to be a film aimed at people actually ON drugs remains to be proven, but there is an awful lot going on here that would suggest so. After some strobe lighting opening credits set to casual music, there is a sudden burst of energy and the credits speed up, banging techno music is played and you are suddenly transfixed at what you are seeing on screen. Noe opens the film as he means to go on, with visual flare and images on screen that you never thought were possible. In a bold move, we are actually Oscar, we see through his eyes exactly what he sees, and whereas the films creativeness and sheer scope of visual effects get bigger and bolder as the film goes on, it is these early scenes that REALLY impressed me, the small details that are done so well that you may not even notice what Noe has so brilliantly done. When Oscar speaks it sounds like you are in his head, like you sound when you speak, slightly muffled and in your own head, it’s clever but that’s not all. Oscar blinks, and daft as that may sound, it’s an astonishing achievement and proof of Noe’s demanding attention to detail as the blinking is just like when you would blink, and then to top it off there is a scene where Oscar looks at himself in the mirror and Noe pulls off a master stroke and technical wizardry as Oscar’s movements in the mirror, even his fucking blinks, are all perfectly matched by what you are actually seeing through his eyes. Oscar, someone give Noe a bloody Oscar!!
Oscar takes a hit on some DMT and suddenly we move into Noe’s psychedelic visuals as Oscar drifts in and out of tripping in his apartment, you go with him, into his drug induced state and it is brilliantly realised. Thankfully, you will like Oscar, because you will be spending the entire film in his head! Also, this film was shot in English! Now, I wonder why Noe chose to do this, maybe so that the bigger audiences could appreciate his visuals without having to read subtitles? Maybe not as there is very little dialogue once Oscar becomes a ghost. Yes, when Oscar becomes a ghost. If you ever wanted to know what it would be like to die, I believe Noe can show you. We die with Oscar, and in all honesty, panic does indeed set in but it is superbly presented on screen, and once we become a ghost, we are free to roam Tokyo in an almost dream like state and watch the world. On first watch there seems to be no reasoning and motivation as to where Oscar drifts to, he simply hovers over buildings, enters rooms, hell, he even enters a gas cooker through the actual flame of the cooker. I doubt very much that such a skilled director as Noe has forgotten logic, so I am sure there is a meaning to the places Oscar goes to and a reason for him entering bizarre areas, but on first viewing you simply drift along with him. I will admit to getting slightly put off at times, not bored, it is rude to Noe to say I was getting bored, but I did feel like I was entering a dreamlike state at times and beginning to nod off, but I believe this is what Noe intended. The reason? Well, just as you are comfortable and almost asleep, he belts you with a reminder as to how Oscar’s parents died in a vicious attack on the senses as their car smashes head on into an oncoming lorry, parents dead, Oscar and Linda screaming and covered in blood, it is upsetting.
And there are plenty more upsetting scenes in this film, with one of the worst being an abortion. I won’t go into detail, but Noe presents the whole scene and show a little too much, but it’s good to see he has not lost his flare to upset. The film is also littered with sex, it’s everywhere and the whole film is quite seedy and nasty in its presentation of it. A hotel is the basis for a ten minute scene near the end where we literally hover over each room and watch people having sex and you actually begin to feel a little uncomfortable with it. Is Noe making a point that we are all being watched in our daily lives by ghosts, or is he making a point that if a loved one dies they will always be there to keep an eye on you? Not sure really, like I said, I need to digest this viewing and give it another go. All I will say is prepare yourself on first viewing. Do not expect another Irreversible; this is a dreamlike movie that really does take you off into another dimension for nearly three hours. You have to marvel at Noe’s genius with a camera and if you take anything from this film, it has to be the incredibly imaginative visuals. Christ, talk of skill with a camera, Noe somehow films from INSIDE a woman’s vagina and all we see on screen is an erect penis thrusting in and out before ejaculating all over the screen, and then, for heaven’s sake, we follow the sperm on their journey to create life! Honestly, this is astonishing stuff but you will need a lot of patience to endure it. At times it can be hard work to get through it, but talking about the film now and being able to reflect upon what I have witnessed on screen, there is no doubt in my mind that Noe is one of the most gifted director’s in the world, and for that he should be applauded. I think this may take a few more viewings to really come out of its shell and present the facts and the why’s and logics of the whole thing, but for now I am happy to say I have seen this and very happy to recommend it to fans of serious, arty world cinema. This is a visual fest, brilliantly matched with astonishing sounds and music to create one of the most unique experiences you will ever have watching a film. Gaspar Noe, you are a genius!
[pt-filmtitle]Enter the void[/pt-filmtitle]