Enter The Void
Directed by Gaspar Noe
Starring Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Kuhn
Release date: September 24, 2010 (limited)
The void, according to flamboyant director Gaspar Noe, is life. What a pessimistic outlook. But Noe does present to us through his new film Enter The Void potent, disturbing, and rotten instances that back his pessimistic perspective. As soon as we are born into this world (Noe gives us an unprecedented example of this) we have entered the void, and we only enhance the blackness of that void by making ourselves susceptible by living a life that approaches the disgusting, sick, and horror-stricken. His film is a fully realized portrait of a decaying city (Tokyo), but is it really about the world? And a fully realized portrait of its sinful inhabitants (Oscar, Linda, and their friends), but is it really supposed to represent all of humanity? Both city and its inhabitants, no matter what way you look at it, have entered the void long ago. Both have fallen victim to life’s unfair ways and are guilty of self-annihilation ever since their conception.
We follow Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a twentysomething-year-old drug abuser and dealer living in Tokyo who was clean before he left New York City. He needs money to fly Linda (Paz de la Huerta), his sister, to Tokyo so they can be reunited after they have been split up due to the death of their parents. To get his sister a plane ticket Oscar turns to sex and drugs. He will allow these vices to wreak havoc on himself and will eventually rub off on his sister. Their relationship is one that may cause you to question it. He sees her naked, she kisses him on the neck, and they sleep in the same room. They love each other. So much so that they made a pact while they were younger to never separate from each other. But now their pact seems to be worthless because they have let the void take hold of them.
Life can be remorseless. Look at Oscar’s life. His parents will die in a car accident in which he and his sister will witness at a young age. He will be separated from his sister because different relatives will take care of them. This will result in loneliness for both of them. Once old enough he will leave New York to go to Tokyo. Already lonely he will find attachment anywhere that welcomes him. His friends in Tokyo are drug addicts and he is surrounded by prostitutes, pimps, and sex fiends. He’s caught up in it because he is lost in life. He knows nothing of loving relationships save for the fleeting childhood memories that occasionally arise in his memory. All he knew has been taken from him. He has entered the void long ago, life has taken a toll on him, and he isn’t strong enough to rise against his problems. This is Noe’s pessimistic view at work and it encompasses the film’s entire two-and-a-half hour runtime.
Noe grants us a personal experience, a personal voyage showing us the world through the life of Oscar. This journey isn’t expressed in a linear way. It begins in the present with the death of our tour guide Oscar, who receives a bullet in his back in a bathroom stall at a bar called The Void. While we are in the present (the opening 20 minutes of the film) Noe shows us the world through the eyes of Oscar. When he blinks the camera blinks. When he gets high on his drugs we get high, seeing the hypnotic hallucinations in which he sees. In short, whatever Oscar does in the present we experience it. This is an artistic triumph that we rarely see. What comes to mind is Julian Schnabel’s direction in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Once Oscar dies we experience the movie from a different angle. After his death we see the action from overhead, almost as if his spirit is floating in the air following the reckless lives of his sister and his few friends. And when the movie details all the events that lead up before Oscar’s death the camera assumes the role of perceiving everything from behind his head. Rarely do we see Oscar’s face; only when he looks at himself despairingly in a mirror. This is filmmaking at its most daring.
There is a mixture of David Lynch and early Christopher Nolan that can be found in Enter The Void. When their ideas exceeded the film medium they had to create their own unique world where their films (Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Nolan’s Memento) could thrive. Noe’s film fits snugly between those two great films. All three films are told in some form of broken narrative. But what arises out of their indistinct narratives (it is almost a contradiction) is a vividness beyond anything we have witnessed. The moment each film ends you have a wonderful revelatory moment where you stand back and say, “Wow, it all fits together.”
Like Memento, Enter The Void shows a slight negligence to a wider range of characters to solely get into the head of Oscar and focus on his life. Like Mulholland Dr., Enter The Void relies heavily on the atmosphere of both the environment and of the human mind to gradually indicate a decomposing of both environment and of human consciousness. Noe’s film caps off its daring ideas with an unparalleled imaginative expedition that in the end only leads to great imaginative reward.
Noe’s unerring sense of direction is the cause of such a reward. The film’s material calls for Noe’s experimental, hyper, and hysterical direction. There isn’t a scene that isn’t decorously lit with neon lights meant to look inviting and luxurious. This glamour is purely a lure toward a cesspool for the inhumane, those who let sin consume them and overtake their consciousness. Enter The Void is a journey through the layers of hell. It is one of the few films that can be called comparable to Dante’s vision of Hell. Noe’s vision is unquestionably blunt, withholding pretty much nothing in the process (hardcore sex and abortion fetuses). His bluntness is appreciated, though, because his film represents the harshness of reality and he presents it to us in the only way an artist should present it; in a way that is furnished with exotic splendor. It would be ridiculous to think of another film this year that is the embodiment of an intensified beauty like Enter The Void is.
**** out of ****