If you’ve never died, done hallucinogenic drugs, had an out of body experience, or been in a serious car crash, you may have trouble connecting with the film “Enter the Void”. I’ve done pretty much all of those things, so this may be one of my favorite films in a decade.
If you’ve never died, done hallucinogenic drugs, had an out of body experience, or been in a serious car crash, you may have trouble connecting with the film Enter the Void. I’ve done pretty much all of those things, so in spite of rather mixed reviews, this is probably one of my favorite films in years. I don’t know how I didn’t hear about this film when it came out in 2010, but…ah, scratch that. Clocking in at 2 hours and 41 minutes, and being comprised mainly of visually stunning, meandering shots of Tokyo sex clubs, street scenes, car crashes, swirling colors, and neon landscapes that connect a bunch of vignettes that border on pornographic or feature death, drug abuse, sex, and birth, the film didn’t enjoy a very wide release or much promotion in the states. Which is a shame, because I think – with one trivial criticism – it borders on being a cinematic masterpiece, eschewing tired, 120-page-script-driven storytelling to embrace the amazing tools that film puts at one’s fingertips. I would be willing to bet that this is a film that David Lynch would have wished he could have made, which for many, of course, would be a solid argument AGAINST the idea that it might be a masterpiece. In any case, while reading negative reviews one thing you’ll consistently notice is that the reviewer will say incredibly thick-headed, entertainment-biased things about plot development, acting skills, or their frustration with the length or having to view the back of the central character’s head more than they’d like. As a film lover since childhood, reviews like this simply affirm to me that this is indeed a great film; if you’re not pissing someone off, you’re probably doing it wrong. And director Gaspar Noé does it right in this film, managing to tell a textured, multi-layered story that is only simplistic – or “puerile” as one critic put it – if you’re too stupid or impatient or lazy to grasp what is being explored. The “plot” is launched by the main character Oscar’s introduction to the The Tibetan Book of the Dead as he starts a drug trip, and then is presumably killed. The ensuing two hours are a journey through life, death, base human experience, beauty, love, loss, and more, brilliantly told with little dialogue. Most of the film is a seamlessly connected series of mostly overhead shots as you journey from interior to interior, to the night streets of Tokyo, to strange “other worlds” of light and sound, and to flashback scenes from childhood. Thanks to remarkable implementation of boom shots, helicopter shots, handheld, CGI, lighting effects, and even tilt-shift-like focus effects, it’s impossible to tell – and therefore not disruptive to the flow – when one or another is being utilized. The stunning visuals are lent much of their effectiveness and seamlessness by some of the most brilliant sound design I’ve ever experienced. Arguably one of the most overlooked apects of creating film as art, Enter the Void’s “soundtrack” is on par with films like 2001 in terms of sound as an integrated part of stoytelling, which is probably not a coincidence – apparently Gaspar Noé saw 2001 at the age of seven, inspiring him at that point to become a filmmaker. If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how the film was made, there’s a detailed summary on Wikipedia. But I honestly wouldn’t recommend reading much about the plot, the technique, or the critical reception – I’ve said far too much here. The film just left enough of an impression on me that I had to spread the word. I personally saw the film after seeing nothing more than the image below. I somehow knew instantly that the film had something I needed to experience, and I was not disappointed. If you decide to check it out, just make sure you actually have the time and space to enjoy the film – it’s not for the impatient, and is as long and ponderous as it is brilliant.
For the record, the trailer doesn’t BEGIN to do the film justice, probably for commercial reasons, it focuses on dialogue and erotica. And although there’s a lot of unerotic “erotica” in the film, it’s hardly the core of the story.