DIR: Gaspar Noé • WRI: Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Gaspar Noé • PRO: Pierre Buffin, Olivier Delbosc, Vincent Maraval, Marc Missonier, Gaspar Noé • DOP: Benoît Debie • ED: Marc Boucrot, Gaspar Noé • DES: Jean-Andre Carriere, Kikup Ohta • CAST: Paz de la Huerta, Nathaniel Brown, Cyril Roy
In a nutshell, Gaspar Noé’s often exasperating but always visionary Enter the Void follows a man on his journey from his last hours on earth, through his death and his journey into the afterlife. The first twenty minutes or so follows Oscar as he takes a hit of DMT (a very potent hallucinogen) and goes on a visually arresting, if slightly over-long trip. He then leaves his house to give his friend a stash of drugs he owes him only to be chased and shot by police when he gets there. From there, his death and afterlife mirrors the philosophies behind the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which theorises (I’m sure I’m putting this very crudely) that one’s soul floats around, watching the world without them until they figure out how to leave their old life behind and move on.
To recommend this film to audiences is perhaps a wrong turn, as it is bound to strike most as indulgent, immoral, needlessly vulgar and uncomfortable (particularly in Oscar’s tendency to watch his sister having sex whenever possible). However, with suitably forewarning, this is a film that any self-respecting cinephile should make a point of seeing, and especially on the big screen.
Noé proved with Irreversible that he was a technical genius and that his eye for original visuals knows no bounds. He also proved that he wasn’t afraid to shock his audience and has quite the nasty streak running through his stories. In both visual content and shock factor, Irreversible was merely a precursor to his magnum opus Enter the Void. With an endless stream of nasty images and depressingly dead-eyed unpleasantness, it is difficult to feel anything for any of the characters, but none of this dampens the impact of Noé’s probing, soaring, spectoral camera as it floats in and out of lives and deaths. I don’t know if it has ever been done before but the camera-as-spirit conceit is highly effective and one which puts a very interesting moral spin on the voyeurism of this film. Noé takes voyeurism to extreme, as Oscar’s spirit jumps in and out of bodies in often very unusual and even shocking circumstances.
The trouble with Enter the Void is that it is difficult sometimes to know whether to laugh or be shocked. Some of the content is pretty outrageous and even quite silly. However, for every roll of the eyes, there is a gasp of astonishment in terms of the intensity of the cinematic experience. Having now seen this film twice (it premiered at JDIFF 2010 in February), I must say I was pleased to see some superfluous scenes towards the end cut out, giving the film a somewhat more streamlined effect.
Your tolerance for Noé’s self-indulgence will most likely decide your level of enjoyment of this, a film I imagine will very much divide audiences, but it is at the very least a visual milestone that should be seen on as big a screen as possible (though somehow I can’t see this one gracing Screen 1 in the Savoy anytime soon). A flawed piece, but one flooded with moments of genius.
Enter the Void is released on 24th September 2010