Monday, February 14, 2011

Enter the Void (2010)

Title: Enter the Void (2010)

Director/Writer: Gaspar Noe

Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy


I don’t know if Gaspar Noe set out to do the “quintessential drug trip movie” with Enter the Void, but that’s exactly what he made. Enter the Void can stand along side other drug related films proudly. What tends to distinguish these films is the fact that they show us the negative effects of drug abuse and in the case of Enter the Void, we also see the negative effects of entering the world of drug trafficking. The film shows us how once you enter this world, this void, your life is constantly in danger of coming to an abrupt, ugly, bitter end.

And make no mistake about it, this movie is about death. To start things of, the main character of the film is a young kid named Oscar. He lives in Japan with his sister Linda. He doesn’t do much with his life except selling drugs. His the kind of person who is happy to just zone out in a drug trip all day, and then hang out during the night selling drugs to his clients. But he sadly lives his life in complete denial. “Im not a dealer” he tells his friend as they are on their way to another client. “I am not a junky” he says as he takes a drag of a drug called DMT. When he inhales, that’s when we first experience what its like to use DMT. On this film, Gaspar Noe decided to use the first person point of view through out the whole film. So whatever Oscar experiences, we experience it first hand as well.

To me this is one of the films strongest assets. The first person perspective puts us inside the film, we experience the whole film as if we were Oscar, the drug dealer, the junky. This is something that has been done before in films, some only do it for a moment, like in Katheryn Bigelow’s opening sequence in Strange Days (1995), other films use it through out their whole duration. Enter the Void does it for its whole running time. Some might think that this type of filmmaking can distance the audience from making a connection with the main character, mainly because we hardly ever see Oscar’s face, save for those few times when he looks at himself in the mirror. But whatever, I think this actually makes the whole experience of watching Enter the Void that much more immersive. Because of the first person point of view, you actually feel you are living this persons life. Therefore, whatever happens to Oscar, you feel is happening to you. To me, the film has more of an impact in this way. The first person point of view works wonders especially when Oscar is going through one of his drug trips, because we can experience the whole thing with him without having to indulge in actual drug use.

DMT is short for Dimethyltryptamine, Oscar’s poison of choice. DMT is a drug that when smoked will make you hallucinate heavily. After smoked, the hallucinogenic effects can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the dosage you take. When Oscar takes DMT, the hallucinations he sees take the film into 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) territory, Gaspar Noe’s favorite film. Suddenly the film goes on this surreal trip filled with abstract hallucinogenic images. I liked the fact that like Kubrick in 2001, Noe really dwells in these abstract images, for minutes on end, making sure you’re going on the trip. Problem is that Oscar mixes his drug use with drug trafficking and eventually in one of the most intense moments in the film, Oscar gets caught by the Japanese police in a night club.

One thing you should have clear about this movie is that Oscar dies very early on in the film. I don’t really see this as a spoiler, because the films entire premise rests on what happens after he dies. And this to me is where the film really takes a drastic turn because suddenly, it’s not only a drug trip movie, now it turns into a film about the afterlife. Or is it about the afterlife? You are never really sure if the whole thing is a DMT trip he is on or if he really has become a ghost. You see, before he dies, Oscar had been reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a book that focuses on the idea of re-incarnation and what happens to you after you die. So after Oscar dies, he turns into a free floating spirit, hovering around Japan becoming a voyeur. In this sense the film reminded me a lot of Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire (1987). On that film, angels hover above Germany for the whole film as voyeurs, observing and taking notes on human behavior. How much of an influence was Wings of Desire on this film? Theres a scene in which Oscar’s spirit wonders into a plane as it is flying! Same exact thing happens in Wings of Desire. Enter the Void functions in the same way by having Oscar become a voyeur, seeing people for who they really are, when they think no one is watching them. This is where Gaspar Noe takes the opportunity to explore human nature and show these characters true colors.

Like previous Noe films (all of them actually) this film is sexually graphic. There is one scene in which Oscar travels (as a spirit) to this motel and he jumps from room to room seeing everybody having sex, an awesome scene, but some might find it too graphic. In various scenes Oscar possesses a person as they are having sex! But whatever, Gaspar Noe has never been one to hold back with imagery in films, he likes to show us the crude, real, dirty things no one likes to talk about. I applaud him as a director for that, most people like to ignore the ugly side of life, while others like to show it to us so we can learn a thing or two about what is happening out their in the real world. To learn about ourselves as human beings, we need to look in the mirror. See how we’re doing. What we are looking like. And though Enter the Void is a fictional film, I am 100% sure that stories like this do happen in the real world.

Technically speaking, the film is flawless. Aside from the fact that the whole film was shot from the first person point of view, the film does offer us other interesting technical achievements. First, the film feels like a kaleidoscope of colors, every square inch of the film is filled with neon colors and strobing lights. Noe chose to alter the images in the films with computer effects, so every single moment of the film is digitally altered somehow in terms of colors and lighting. And speaking of camera moves, since we are Oscar through out the whole film, the camera is always in constant movement. We walk along with him wherever he goes. When he turns into a spirit the camera is always floating around. So Enter the Void is a kinetic film, always in constant action.

For me Enter the Void was an amazing film; an experience. It feels as if you were living someone elses life, and afterlife. Right from its opening title sequence you know this movie is special. The film has one of the most amazing opening credit sequences ever. Enter the Void is an astounding pounding of the senses, from the visuals, to the music to the story which focuses on a drug dealer and his sister, who also happens to be a stripper. Noe is a filmmaker that is constantly trying to break new boundaries in cinema, always trying something new, always breaking rules and making new ones. Testing the limits of what you can take as an audience. It is a film that is not for everyone, the way it divided critics and audiences is a testament to that. When we come down to it, it’s a love it or hate it picture. Enter the Void is an art house picture because it is art. And like many good works of art, it deserves more then one viewing. The only negative thing I can mention about this film is that it’s got a lengthy running time, and many critics and test audiences have complained about this. My advice is to watch the film in two viewings, this movie has so much greatness in it, that half an hour will have passed and you feel like you’ve seen a whole film. It’s that condensed. But rest assured, the film is visual coolness for its entire two and a half hours of duration. I agree with Peter Bradshaw’s review for The Guardian. In that review Bradshaw mentions “Love him or hate him -and I’ve done both in my time- Gaspar Noe is one of the very few directors who is actually trying to do something new with the medium, battling at the boundaries of the possible” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Rating: 5 out of 5

That's Gaspar Noe (extreme right) with part of his cast

Enter the VoidEnter the Void [Blu-ray]IrreversibleI Stand AloneIrréversible Dvd Unrated Uncut [Region 2]Wings of Desire (The Criterion Collection)Strange Days2001: Space Odyssey2001 - A Space Odyssey (Two-Disc Special Edition)


Jack L said...

fantastic review,
I've been recommended this one so I'll be watching it soon, I haven't seen any of Noe's previous work so I'm not sure whether I'll like it or not but I'm willing to give it a try...

You make some interesting points in your review and have finished persuading me to watch it, the comparison with Wings of Desire (one of my favourites) was very intriguing.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, its like a darker version of Wings of Desire. Instead of an angel its a spirit, and instead of wanting to become human, he's trying to re-incarnate.

Trust me man, stick all the way to the end of this movie and you will feel like you were born again! This film takes you places you never thought you'd go in a film!

Neil Fulwood said...

"Noe is a filmmaker that is constantly trying to break new boundaries in cinema, always trying something new, always breaking rules and making new ones. Testing the limits of what you can take as an audience."

You've perfectly expressed what makes Noe such an essential filmmaker. And because he continually strives to redefine cinema, he creates works that are divisive, provocative and controversial. I'm very much looking forward to 'Enter the Void', though it's one I think I'll buy rather than renting because I think, as you mention in your review, that repeat viewings will be a necessity.

Franco Macabro said...

This one is definetly a keeper Neil! Hey it would have been a good addition for your "Winter of Dscontent" series of articles!


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