Enter the Void

Enter the Void ★★★½

My first small taste of Enter the Void was when someone nominated the opening credits for my Most Innovative Opening Credits list. Wow. They sure fit the criteria. That experience left me intrigued, but also fearful.

My opinion is that the best opening credits do far more than inform you about the people responsible for the film, they inform you about the film itself; rather like the overture of a symphony. In this case, they’re like staring up at a scary thrill ride at an amusement park. Mesmerising, exciting, and bloody scary. They taunt you to walk away; press eject, continue on to enjoy your tranquil state of mind. Yet somehow the siren song is irresistible.

As I took my seat in the car, and it lurched forward with a jerk, I could feel the tingling of electrical current running through my body. My first thought was that this is what it would be like to read Trainspotting while on acid. Really good acid. I don’t recall ever seeing point of view photography being used this effectively. I felt as if I was transported not only into Oscars mind, but also his state of being.

I didn’t really know anything about the Tibetan Book of the Dead going in, but the brief amount of exposition was sufficient to keep me from getting completely lost once the story transitioned. The first question that popped into my mind when Oscar is shot … If you’re completely zoned at the moment of death, do you carry that into eternity? Enter the Void answered that question for me … unequivocally. While some would shout out ‘Righteous!’, I got the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was about to be shown what Hell is all about. I wasn’t that far off.

Gasper Noe certainly doesn’t pull any punches. There are quite a few scenes that I wish that I could un-see. Yet, it didn’t feel like they were inserted for shock value alone. The extremely graphic scenes were consistent with the further descent into a nightmarish hell.

One can’t talk about Enter the Void without mentioning the incredibly innovative visual style. The cinematography is jarring, yet completely fluid. The garish neon landscape eye burning bright, yet incredibly dark. I can’t even begin to fathom the amount of painstaking work it took to plan and execute the uncountable number of complex scene to scene transitions. It really was like nothing I’d seen before. As Enter the Void was primarily a visual film, success of the visuals is tantamount to success overall. I was amazed by the half way point at how well this film engaged me and carried me along considering it’s disjointed and paper thin narrative.

Then it happened. Like an amusement park ride that goes on too long, I was becoming disengaged. The stunning visuals were losing their effect on me. What was fascinating for the first 90 minutes was becoming, frankly, boring. I’d be slapped back to attention by the some of the grizzly scenes, but then fall back out. I was aching for an escape from The Love Hotel. I wanted to get off the ride.

This is a shame. In hindsight, I don’t think it’s possible for a film to keep up this unrelenting pace, and visual assault, for close to 160 minutes. I think I would have been much more satisfied with a 100 minute cut. For me, it was simply too much of a good thing.

I got off the ride wobbly and disoriented, and I think that’s what Noe had in mind.

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