Enter the Void

Enter the Void ★★★★★

Never have I experienced anything like Enter the Void. And never has a film's title been so perfectly accurate to the experience of watching it. Entering Gaspar Noe's transcendent void of life and death is virtually indescribable. And rarely have I been so emotionally drained after watching something than I was after this film. I even hesitate to call it a film, because it is really more of an experience than anything else. You're bombarded with color and sound, meant to mimic the experience of a DMT trip, but the effect it has is incredible. The cinematography is mind blowing. First off, though it does utilize "cuts" and transitions, Enter the Void feels like one fluid, never ending stream of consciousness. It begins with the most convincing and effective use of POV perspective that I've ever seen, settling us (but not comfortably) in the role of the protagonist, Oscar. We see through his eyes as trips on DMT and goes out on his rounds as a drug dealer in Tokyo. And within the first 30 minutes of the film he's dead.

His death, which we also experience in first person, is utterly horrifying to experience. Noe's attention to detail in this scene alone is staggering as we experience Oscar dying on the floor of a bathroom stall with a bullet hole in his chest. We hear his gradually weakening heartbeat, experience his vision failing, and hear his last thoughts, gradually growing softer. And I was devastated. I acutely felt his death. I felt his surprise, his pain, and his fear, and most importantly and most horrifyingly, I felt his realization that he was dying. And then we do enter the void, as Oscar's spirit ascends, looking down on his body in its pool of blood, and begins its neon-drenched odyssey into his past, present, and future.

The story is pretty bare bones, focusing primarily on Oscar's relationship with his sister Linda and their pact to never leave one another. In this aspect, Enter the Void is nothing special. What is special is how Noe chooses to portray the story. We glide seamlessly through walls and floors, floating across Tokyo from location to location as we see the aftermath of Oscar's death, woven together seamlessly with visions of his past, seen in third person, but always directly from behind his head, creating a unique sort of first/third person perspective.

Visually, Enter the Void is the most stunning film I've ever seen. Not only was I completely at a loss for how Noe accomplished certain shots and sequences, but I was also completely enthralled in the movement and color of the world before me. It's an ethereal, transcendent spiritual experience that is virtually impossible to accurately put into words. As I mentioned previously, its completely continuous, each shot feeling like an extension of the previous one, each sequence flowing seamlessly from one to the next. The past becomes an extension of the future and vice versa. Enter the Void revels in the cyclical nature of all things, and it is decidedly beautiful.

This being said, it is not an easy film to watch. In many ways, its neon landscape is almost hopelessly bleak and we're subjected to countless moments of sadness and pain and devastation. It all serves as a form of catharsis, leaving the viewer emotionally and even physically drained after almost 3 hours. However, as a sort of light at the end of the tunnel, the film's conclusion can be considered uplifting (though I won't spoil it). There's much that's open to interpretation when it comes to Enter the Void, which I consider one of its strong suits. It's up to the viewer to decide if the whole thing was just a hallucination brought on in the moment of Oscar's death, or whether it is a story of transcendence and rebirth suggested by the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This has been a pretty long review, but I don't feel like I've done Enter the Void any sort of real justice. It's definitely not an experience for everyone, and I can easily understand why many have found it lacking. But despite this, I do believe that it is a film that MUST be experienced, if for nothing but the stunning visuals alone. Just be prepared to feel exhausted on the completion of your journey into the void.

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