October 18th, 2010

Enter the Void

Directed by Gaspar Noe | Run time: 160 mins

Review by Dan Collacott

After committing a violent assault on our senses with 'I Stand Alone' and 'Irreversible,' stubborn shock jockey Gasper Noe is back with Enter the Void, a confused mix of sleaze, drugs and spiritual journeying.

The story surrounds a brother and sister who as children lose their parents in a repeatedly revisited and gory car crash. The pair are subsequently separated then reunited as adults in Japan, a point at which the film begins. Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) has embarked on a life selling drugs, partially to fund his sister's flight to Japan and partially out of apathy and unwillingness to work. After joining him in Tokyo Linda (Paz de la Huerta) becomes a stripper and later falls pregnant to the club owner. But not before a bungled drugs bust claims Oscar's life early on in the toilet of night club 'The Void'.

The remainder of the film is experienced from the viewpoint of his floating spirit. We follow the journey Oscar's soul embarks on, as our senses are endlessly drenched in neon lights and delirious and stomach churning circular camera work. Oscar's spirit lurches forward and backward through time, flying across the tops of the city and through walls, as a series of tragically connected events cruelly unravels.

The evident sentimentality throughout the film is heavily undermined by the raging sexuality and incestuous yearnings Noe places on Lynda and Oscar; as well as the endless oedipal and incest nods and nudges. No female actress goes more than a matter of minutes without being semi-naked or topless on screen, Noe continues to create an uncomfortable juxtaposition between violence, death and sex.

The first hour of the film is simply mesmerizing, the psychedelic aesthetics are at times awe inspiring, pulling you into a seedy yet sterile and soulless City, in fact it feels like Noe is channelling aspects of sci-fi - like Blade Runner on an acid trip. The narrative is simplistic but hits like a sledge hammer to the face, in fact there is little joy or happiness in any of the lives we are exposed to, you can barely even empathise with the brilliantly acted characters. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a central undercurrent to the films oriental spirituality, though this does little to soften the film's jagged edges. 

An internal ejaculation and graphic removal of an unborn foetus ensure the film will be talked about for probably the wrong reasons and keep Noe amongst the hallowed ranks of the most provocative film makers. 

The main problem with Enter the Void is that the last 40+ minutes of the film are quite maddening as it spirals into the stratosphere of self-indulgence. It just doesn't end, it doesn't even hint at an end! In fact you could taste the relief in the cinema when it finally concluded and there were no more ten minute pieces of repetitive, swirling camera work to endure. 

That's said art is meant to challenge and there is so much in this film that both challenges and delights that you can forgive the fact Noe overshoots the mark wildly towards the end.


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