Enter the Void

Enter the Void is directed by Gaspar Noe.  Noe is responsible for two other notorious and horribly disturbing films, Irreversible (2002) and I Stand Alone (1998), as well as many shorts, one of which is included in a collection titled Destricted (2006).  Destricted compiles erotic films that aim to illuminate the points where art meets sexuality (fellow short directors include: Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, Marco Brambilla, Larry Clark, Richard Prince and Sam Taylor-Wood).

I must confess now that despite the fact that I’ve seen my fair share of disturbing shit, I could not bring myself to finish Irreversible.  It is known to have some of the most violent scenes out there, including a very disgusting bludgeoning which occurs in the first few minutes and a viciously executed rape scene.  With this in mind I was wary but intrigued to hear about Noe’s new Enter the Void, and upon seeing the teaser trailers was aptly stoked for it to come out so that I could experience the next installment in Noe’s oeuvre.

The trailer sends mixed messages.  Tender images of a young man and woman with a tinkling melody collide with psychedelia-infused Tokyo night scenes, strippers, drugs and violence that are editted together with a tempo matching the intense beat of electronica.  The only other point I knew of the film before I went into it is that Noe was going to continue his exploration of a roving camera that makes it look as though the entire film is done in one take, a style that he explored in Irreversible.

I was riveted by the film from the opening credits.  That intense electronica beat from the trailer picks up immediately and amid it the credits flash graphically in bright, ever-changing neon colors.  I got pumped in seconds.  When the credits are over the film transitions abruptly to near-silence in a Tokyo apartment, and all of a sudden we are a character.  The gaze of the camera moves as though we are the man acting in the film, and a subtle but highly off-putting effect of the camera “blinking” emphasizes this. This effect is maintained throughout the first 45 minutes or so of Enter the Void, and these are easily the best 45 minutes in the film. 

Noe organizes the narrative of the film ala Momento or Pulp Fiction by revealing most of the ending first in the opening 45 minute sequence.  This only becomes distracting due to the fact that the narrative slowly nose-dives as it unwinds.  All of the most delicious story-telling and camera work occurs in the first hour.  The final hour and 20 minutes seem to drag and becomes repitive and, while dark and macabre, a bit boring. 

I want to give Noe credit for taking his camera work to such an ambitious and conceptual level, although I felt that his use of the roving, surveillance style camera as a transitional tool happened a few too many times and was a big part of why the film felt so long.  Another creative point that I want to commend Noe for is his incredibly interesting and beautiful filmic depiction of what it is like to experience psychedellic drugs.  During these scenes, the viewer truly feels at the mercy of Noe’s creativity, and is forced to experience along with the protagonist these arresting visions that leave no room for escape by either party as we are completely immersed in psychedelia. 

If you are a viewer who perhaps has dabbled in psychedlics yourself, or who has a penchant for the weird, the dramatic and the disturbing then  you should certainly put this movie on your list of must-sees.  Otherwise, this is a movie to avoid at all costs.  Although I think that Enter the Void has its share of flaws, I believe that Noe has definitely created an experience that should not be missed by the adventurous movie-goer.  Looking back, I must certainly add that it is an incredibly beautifully shot movie.  All of its cinematography is on point and exceptionally well done.  At the very least, don’t miss it for that.

My rating: 7.5/10

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