Director Gaspar Noe
Writer Gaspar Noe
Lead Nathaniel Brown
Box Office $1.5m
Enter the Void is the third feature film directed and written by Gaspar Noe after a seven-year feature film hiatus after Irreversible, previously covered in the podcast. Noe would go onto release Love in 2015, with Climax out this year.
The loud opening credits tell us that this is not a film for epileptics and now that all the people with epilepsy have been taken out of the auditorium, let’s continue.
We are in Tokyo with drug dealer and user Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) and his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) and they’re not speaking French! Yes, this is Noe’s first non-French speaking feature. Right from the off we discover the central theme, for the first exchanges of dialogue are surround the nature of death and what happens after we die.
There is a strict point of view from Oscar for the first thirty minutes and due to the calibre of this film and I hurriedly plopped my half-finished point of view script in the bin.
Alex, a friend of Oscar’s swings by before the shooting. Alex is a man who sounds like Spider from The Mighty Boosh. He disapproves, almost warns Oscar of his drug dealing and he continues the theme of death and reincarnation.
Oscar is caught in a bar named The Void trying to sell drugs and attempts to flush the drugs down toilet and is shot. The point of view then lapses, through the flashbacks of the remaining two hours, through the afterlife of memories that Oscar leaves behind.
Going in I was expecting the best – or should I say worse? – from Noe. He isn’t one to shirk the responsibility of making a hard-hitting film and with one named Enter the Void I expected depravity. Depravity with a sprinkling of murder, rape and graphic violence.
It is a very visceral film. An opening neural sequence during a drug taking episode, the 3-minute sequence smacks of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its stargate sequence. According to Noe, himself, the film “changed his life”, and from the age of seven upon seeing it, he wished to become a director. Perhaps, the marketing of 2001 in its “ultimate trip”, lends itself to Noe’s rather trippy filmmaking and the experiences he gives his audience.
After Oscar’s death, the omniscient camera work returns from Irreversible for a few sequences . It’s almost as the point of view we’re watching from Oscar’s soul or a subconscious or afterlife. He follows his friend running away from the police and straight to the strip club his sister works at.
This camera work is as useful as it was back in Irreversible. It disorientates you from the already complex city structures of Paris in Irreversible and Tokyo in Enter the Void.
The memory sequence that follows Linda’s learning of Oscar’s death is up there with one of the better sequences I’ve seen in a long time. It is very cerebral, includes the car accident that kills Oscar and Linda’s parents and changes Oscar’s point of view subtly to behind Oscar – as if he’s watching his own memories, his life flooding through his eyes as he passes on.
There are moments when you think the plot is dipping into porn levels, such is the sexual nature of the Noe films I have seen. However, Noe drives home the link from Oscar sleeping with his friend’s mother to breast feeding and other sexual scenes from his present to his past.
Enter the Void has added a second exception to the supposed rule against ‘killing your protagonist early’, certaintly in a film I have seen or remembered. The *spoilers* only *spoilers* other *spoilers* exception *spoilers* is *spoilers* Deep Blue Sea. Where, of course, Sam Jackson gets eaten halfway through the film.
Like any film of its particularly long runtime of over two hours and forty minutes, there has to be a sag in the middle – it can’t all but lust and gore and drugs for 160 minutes. The sag does arrive but the story never becomes tedious.
The film was nominated for Cannes film festival’s Palme d’Or. It is a film that follows the mould of Gaspar Noe’s films to have come and gone. There are the bright lights, the disorientation, the sex, the violence. The complete, definitive Noe.