This is a column where I watch then briefly review films that have been on my to-see list. Here are my thoughts.
(Year of release: 2009)
Thrilling, moving… and fucked up.
Gaspar Noé, director of contro thriller Irreversible, has never been a critic’s favourite. ‘Shock for shock’s sake’ has been at the forefront of derision on the French filmmaker, and after seeing a man’s face get pumelled into mush with a fire extinguisher, you can’t disagree with the naysayers too much. But with Enter The Void, Noé’s tactics prove more than simply traumatic; they’re visceral, and endlessly touching.
We follow the American Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) through his life in Tokyo, where he lives with his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta). He’s a small-time drug dealer, and his problems are beginning to escalate into the red. Before we know it, he’s shot dead, and embarks on a spiritual observer role ala the Tibetan Book of the Dead, watching over his loved ones in the wake of his premature departure from this plane. Following the memorable credits sequence, Oscar’s initial trip with drugs can be felt as overlong – but by the end of the beautiful hallucinations, you’re completely lost in it too. After all, that’s what the film’s angle is: one big trip. But it’s when Oscar travels into his past when we become unexpectedly emotionally invested – via graphic depictions of a car crash, and the life-long bond formed between him and Linda.
Oscar’s disembodied spirit floats around, voiceless, and we really believe we’re there with him thanks to some top-notch camera work. The top-down view that includes 90% of the movie’s shots can be patience-testing at times, but it’s a small niggle in an otherwise stellar journey. However, the camera is the basis of perspective: we are simply observing people and events. This lends any scenes that are classic ‘shock for shock’s sake’ in true Noé fashion a real detached air: we are observing something as it is unfolding naturally, and that’s all it is. Obvservation. The real star, however, is Noé’s Tokyo: a multicoloured, seedy, absolutely massive dreamscape, of which the camera’s zippy traversement provides some narrative clarity in terms of the chronology of events, in addition to some wonderful CGI and epic studio shots.
The entire picture loosely revolves around reincarnation, and after some really uncomfortable – yet ultimately eye-opening – viewing, we understand. The non-religious Noé himself said Enter The Void was Oscar’s dream, just before he dies: his journey is one last trip, and the Void is the nothingness that comes after. But if we have our own Enter The Void dream when we die, it’d be okay.