ENTER THE VOID
Director: Gaspar Noé
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander, Masato Tanno, Ed Spear, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Kuhn
Running Time: 2:41
Release Date: 9/24/10 (limited)
Review by Mark Dujsik | September 23, 2010
The force of daring and ambition on display in Gaspar Noé's visual, aural, and temporal interpretation of the so-called "Tibetan Book of the Dead" is undeniable. Enter the Void first sees a drug trip and the underground drug trade in Tokyo through the eyes (literally) of a low-end dealer. It then imagines the limitless state of his soul wandering through time and space—racing across the city, flowing through walls, taking over consciousnesses, reliving the past, and observing the present. Either a good trip is like death, or death is akin to a good trip.
The comparison is unavoidable, especially when Noé breaks a minutes-long, multi-colored fractal art display for his hero Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) to have an out-of-body experience. Then the question is: Why the comparison?
Noé and Lucile Hadzihalilovic's screenplay for Enter the Void dabbles in many excessive flourishes surrounding the central journey, all of which come across as hollow affectation (the long light show early on) or attempts to cause a scandal (a graphic abortion sequence and an extended flight through a black-lit hotel where everyone is having explicit sex of some kind or other). The effect of the movie's drifting, distant perspective, though, is one of clinical detachment. There's no feeling here, and Noé barely elicits annoyance at the pretentious trimmings or shock at the more controversial imagery.
That anesthetized sensation is the result of a pummeling of repetition. The movie starts (after a rapid-fire presentation of the full credits followed by a blaring showcase of a stylistic sundry for opening credits—the combination of which begins the art of redundancy) with Oscar and his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) in their high-rise Tokyo apartment (across the street from a giant neon sign that says "The Void"). Linda is on her way to work at a strip club, while Oscar gets high alone, waiting for his buddy Alex (Cyril Roy) to arrive. Linda doesn't like Alex, because he hits on her all the time.
Oscar receives a phone call from Victor (Olly Alexander), a client, asking for his share of product, and Alex shows up. They walk and talk, eventually reaching Victor, who has set Oscar up for the police.
Oscar dies soon after (The image slowly fading, fading away), and movie's main character becomes the camera, no longer attached to the physical being of Oscar but to his spirit. It hangs overhead, observing how Alex responds to the news, how Linda ignores a phone call from Alex to have sex with her boyfriend/boss Mario (Masato Tanno), and enters Mario's head so that Oscar can see his sister in the throes of passion. That bit might actually be the least Freudian part of their relationship.
Following the synopsis of the Tibetan tome that Alex relays to Oscar in their long walk to see Victor, we then see Oscar's past flashing by in his mind's eye: the death of his parents in a violent car crash, the separation of Oscar and Linda, Oscar's entrance into the drug trade, how Linda comes to Tokyo, and a melodramatic subplot explaining why Victor ratted on Oscar. At the height of its tedium, the movie then replays the events of the opening, pre-death sequence, although this time from an over-the-shoulder point of view.
Throughout events, Noé will suddenly cut to the screeching, screaming car crash. It's the most assaultive trick in an editing style by Noé and Marc Boucrot that veers wildly between hypnotic and hostile. The same goes for Benoît Debie's cinematography, which alternates between black lights and strobe lights and incorporates a wide-angle lens to close out some of the vignettes.
The last act becomes even stranger, returning to the lives of those friends and loved ones of Oscar. The climax is a long fly around a hotel, modeled by one of Oscar's friends in miniature in life (More foreshadowing: The character suggests that the entire front be open, so one can look in on his friends and loved ones having sex), where male genitalia gives off a glowing aura and orgasm is canary yellow.
The scene has its origin in the source material, but it's a dramatic stretch. The whole of Enter the Void, in fact, pulls its thin material far beyond the breaking point. We know exactly what is happening (Noé sets it all up, early and often), but there's the question of why bother.
Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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