Thursday, February 10, 2011

Enter the Void to Fill Your Visual Appetite

Enter the Void

If films like Inception, Mr. Nobody, and Enter the Void are any indication, 2010 might go down as the year where cinematic boundaries were pushed to a whole new level. Each film is a treat both visually and mentally and they will often leave you questioning “how did they do that?” Of these three films, Enter the Void is the one that really will test both the viewers expectations and their patience.

By far Gaspar Noé’s most daring film to date, Enter the Void is a tale that offers a unique take on death and the afterlife. Oscar (Nathanial Brown), a drug dealer, and his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), are now living in Japan together after spending several years apart. One day Oscar’s friend, Alex (Cyril Roy), gives him “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” to read. The book outlines what happens to the soul after people die. According to the book, besides seeing your entire life flash before your eyes, there are four avenues that your soul takes before deciding on where it will ultimately end up. After being set up by a “friend”, Oscar is killed while trying to evade the cops. Although his body may be dead, Oscar’s spirit is about to go on a whole new journey as he watches over the lives of his sister and his friends.

Despite being a film about death, this is far from a bleak film. Enter the Void is a visual assault to the senses as the film is filled with various neon colour, slick special effects, and unique camera angles. The fantastic title sequence alone is a loud, seizure inducing, treat that sets the tone for the film perfectly. The first half of this movie is simply stunning. Not only are the visuals breathtaking, but the way Noé uses them to tell the story is brilliant. A large portion of the film is shot from a first person perspective. The viewer sees thing through Oscar’s eyes as he floats around as a ghost. Even when Nathanial Brown appears on screen, we often see the back of his head, or a side profile.

The best part of the film is when Oscar’s spirit goes back in time and we see his entire life up to the point of his death. Noé not only gives us a better understanding of the sibling’s relationship, but also highlights how the choices Oscar has had a ripple effect that will lead to his death. Where Enter the Void begins to falter is in the second half where some of themes Noé touches on become rather repetitive.

While the repetition in the film is suppose to signify the continual cycle that human beings and their spirits go through it does make for a bit of an endurance test. At a running time of two hours and forty minutes, Enter the Void could have easily been trimmed down in the second half. The four stages that the spirit must go through is a fascinating concept but each stage runs too long. After a while the fish bowl-style lens, that proceeds the camera diving into the light, is no longer an interesting film technique. Even when the film culminates at the Love Hotel the use of lighting in the sex scenes goes from outstanding to overkill in the span of fifteen minutes.

Enter the Void is a film that I am somewhat hesitant to recommend. The first half is brilliant but the second half will cause some to pull out their hair. Enter the Void is by no means as disturbing as Noé’s previous film, Irreversible, yet it does have content that may not appeal to a large section of viewers. Still, if you are willing to let yourself go on a wild ride, this is one film that you will not easily forget after you have entered the void.


  1. Fantastic review,
    I've heard great things about this one but I've been on the fence about whether to watch it or not, I have no previous experience of Noé's work so I can't be sure I'll enjoy it or be repelled by it, the subject does intrigue me as does all the praise for the visuals but I'm unfortunately rather sensitive when it comes to more explicit details and graphic violence...

    I'll probably make up my mind to see it someday (hopefully soon) but for the moment I'm hesitant.
    Great review though!

  2. @Jack L – Noé is the type of director who loves to take the viewer to uncomfortable places. While this film is not as violent as his previous film, the content and sex scenes may still offend some viewers. I would recommend that you start with this film first before going into Noé earlier works. Enter the Void should serve as a good indicator on whether you will be able to stomach his other films.

  3. I'm so extraordinarily intrigued. Definitely putting this one up on my list.

  4. @CS
    Well it that case I'll give it a try, I'm not really a fan of avant garde type cinema in general but I'm always willing to give films a chance, who knows, I may love Enter The Void when I see it!
    Thanks for convincing me :)

  5. This film is such a technical marvel, but once you stop being impressed by the technique, the story really lets it down. Had it been about an hour and twenty minutes shorter, it would have been a far better film.

    I did love the opening titles though

  6. Well said, man. This was a trip alright, and while it's not on the same upsetting level as Irreversible (which is a good thing), that last half-hour or so was truly bizarre. Was not expecting the giant cock in my face.

    Still, a memorable, visually gorgeous movie.

  7. @M.Hufstader – I say it is at least worth a look, at least from a technical stand point.

    @Tom – I liked the overall story a little more than you did but I completely agree that it needed some serious editing. The last half of really tested my patience at times. I did find myself checking my watch quite a few times.

    @Aiden R. - There was a point where I had a feeling he might incorporate a shot like that, but I assumed Noé would show some restraint and not actually do it. Sure enough ten minutes later there it was starring me right in the face.

  8. Anonymous3:15 pm

    how did they make the opening credits?

  9. @Anonymous - IFC has posted the opening credits on youtube. You can give it a look here


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