REVIEW: Enter the Void

Enter the Void
Directed by: Gasper Noé
Written by: Gasper Noé
Starring: Nathanial Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, and Ed Spear

Until Kanye West “borrowed” Enter the Void’s opening credit sequence for his music video for “All of the Lights,” director Gasper Noé was most famous for a nine minute rape scene in his film Irreversible.  This makes his work hard to approach, but Enter the Void is a rewarding hallucinatory venture and engaging exercise in experimental filmmaking.  Told entirely from a first-person/first-spirit perspective, the film follows Oscar (Nathanial Brown) as he gets high, gets killed, and gets reborn.

Watching Oscar get shot in the bathroom as he tries to dump out his drugs during a police raid and then rise up and watch his body from the afterlife is haunting because of its simplicity.  Images like these are the biggest strength of Noé’s film.  You might think that the first-person setup would be a limitation, but he subverts the gimmick and creates an experience that is truly one-of-a-kind.  The goal of his film is not to get you on Oscar’s side, but rather to watch him see the imprint he left on the world.   Noé seems to be showing us that even the people with the smallest or grimiest of contributions leave their mark.

As the film progresses, Oscar begins revisiting moments from his childhood, like the car accident that killed his parents or his separation from his sister.  These are still in first-person, and their abruptness is what gives the movie its hallucinatory vibe.  Noé even revisits some of them twice and gives slightly altered memories.  Oscar is a character struggling to ground himself back in the real world through his memories.  Sadly, it’s too late.

It’s not just the structure of the movie that keeps it from easy understanding and interpretation.  The visuals are all beautiful, hectic creations fueled by neon and the grimy Tokyo underbelly.  Whether Oscar soars above the city and enters a trippy sex hotel or watches as his stripper sister goes from giving a guy fellatio to finding out about her brother’s death, the poetic and the vulgar mesh like few other films.

Noé occasionally dips into the disgusting excesses that have made him infamous at film festivals and to those who now seek out his movies on Netflix.  The aforementioned orgy scene, in which Oscar zooms from hotel room to hotel room watching various couples making love, is a perfect example.  This scene is necessary for the “rebirth” concept that brilliantly and blurrily ends the film, but this nearly 10-minute-long sequence, including a moment where we watch intercourse from inside the vagina, is too much and distracts from the ideas.

Enter the Void often teeters dangerously close to the edge of “too much.”  As a concept, it borders closely on gimmick but rises above and subverts itself.  As a movie, there are equal moments of thematic revelation and Noé reveling in disgust and shock.  It all somehow works out in the end though, because it’s hard to fault a filmmaker for being so audaciously, provocatively original.  This is a movie where you get out of it what you put in.  It can be difficult, even frustrating in both its complexity and simplicity; not a movie you love, but a movie you love to think about.

Grade: B+

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: Enter the Void

  1. Good review, man. Definitely teeters towards “too much” once they reach the neon sex hotel at the end, but in comparison to Noe’s other films, this is pretty damn tame. Pretty incredible imagery though.

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