Enter The Void (2009)
Dir. Gaspar Noe (France, Germany, Italy)
Screened: Friday 17th September 2010
Before watching Enter The Void, I only knew the work of professional provocateur Gaspar Noe by reputation – I didn’t particularly want to subject myself to Seul Contre Tous or Irreversible, and I’m still not sure I’d be able to stomach them if I did. But his latest film garnered high praise that piqued my curiousity.
The film begins (after a sensory assault of an opening credits sequence) by showing events through the eyes of Oscar, a young drug dealer living in Tokyo with his sister. Taking the first-person POV technique to an unsettling extreme, the cinematography even includes Oscar’s blinking, and a spell of abstract images as a result of a hallucinogenic drug trip. Oscar goes to meet a potential customer at a bar, and is shot by police during a raid. From there, the constantly-roving camera takes the POV of his spirit as it drifts out of his body, across Tokyo, and back and forth in his life.
If this sounds like heady stuff, it is. The disorienting effect is heightened by Noe’s use of unconventional spinning and whirling camera movements and an ambient soundtrack from Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter. While the characters are unappealing and Noe relentlessly grim view of human nature begins to drag after a while, the visuals are never less than stunning. There is something incredible to be seen in just about any sequence, from the neon lights of a toytown Tokyo, seen from Oscar’s spirit’s perspective as he drifts, to the replication of that neon topography in a seedy strip club or an artist’s model, to a car crash filmed from inside the POV. Noe has described his film-making as “like constructing a roller-coaster”, and there’s definitely a sense as the camera hurtles headlong through space and time that the audience is strapped in for a ride that aims to thrill and shock.
Enter The Void is a far more visceral than intellectual or emotional experience. (The brief references to the Tibetan Book Of The Dead serve to explain the film’s structure, but I found them to be a little on-the-nose.) However, it’s a true cinematic experience; one that aims to create images and sensations that have rarely ever been experienced via the medium. It may be sleazy, perverted and self-indulgent, but it’s also wildly inventive and ambitious.