Enter the Void

Enter the Void ★★★★★


Just want to take a moment to pat myself on the back. Alongside giving myself proper time to do well with upcoming final projects and essays and such, I've been able to fit in some great movies too for the past week. Two of those great movies (at least I think) will be entering into my top 30 or so. First, we had The Wolf of Wall Street. And now, Enter the Void. When you catch me talking about Nicolas Winding Refn's film Only God Forgives, inevitably, I'm going to say something along the lines of this: I think Only God Forgives is the 21st century equivalent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I hope fifty years from now we look back on it the same way we look at 2001 now. If you're expecting me to say Enter the Void now replaces Only God Forgives as that, you'd be partially correct. For now, especially considering I just finished watching this for the first time, and I've seen Only God Forgives about seven or eight times, let's just say they're tied for that coveted title.

Exactly like how the glacial pacing and the strong atmosphere are (reasonable) turn-offs for some with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Enter the Void isn't going to gel with wide audiences super well. On top of having both of those previous aspects, Enter the Void delves deep into the abstract, the demented, and the simply put "tough" aspects of life. Get ready for blood, drugs, trauma, and cum. The lead character isn't what you would call "sympathetic" either. That's not to say Oscar is a bad person. Even after we find out more and more about his life (and his death), there weren't many parts of Oscar that made me want to not follow him. The films of Kubrick to me are about various pieces of humanity. 2001 is to me about knowledge and consciousness. In that case, to apply analysis similar to Enter the Void, I believe this film to be about two distinct concepts: Empathy and, well, "the void."

First, empathy. For almost the entire runtime, even after his death and as we reflect back on his life, we experience things from the perspective of Oscar. We begin with first-person cinematography for the first at least twenty minutes or so. (Amazing stuff, by the way.) From there, we get over the shoulder shots of a young Oscar and him shortly before his demise. And then, after that, we follow others he encountered in his life. The objective of the film isn't to make you like Oscar or Linda or anyone else. Rather, the filmmaking strives to put you in his shoes. As he speaks, his voice rings in your ears. His voice is your voice. As he smokes DMT and trips, you trip with him. Even as he sometimes blinks, you blink with him. And, of course, as he dies, you die with him. His inner monologue and his last fleeting thoughts belong to you as much as they do to him. As someone who strives to feel empathy in any situation I possibly can, this may very well be the most empathetic film I've ever seen.

Now, the void. What is the void? Simple. Whether we exactly verbalize it, or think of it, a particular question is always with us: What happens after we die? Is there Heaven? Hell? Reincarnation? Or, is there nothing? Is the void a literal void, us passing onto nothingness after we've served our time in the real world? Enter the Void offers us a "what-if" scenario of the afterlife. I find it quite beautiful even beyond all the tragedy. Like in A Christmas Carol (Didn't think I would ever compare a Gaspar Noe feature to Charles Dickens, but here we are.), we travel to the past that lead Oscar to become a drug dealer. We travel to the past of Oscar and Linda. The trauma they have had to carry, and the bond they have formed. (And that bond is, uh, really close.) We see the present, as Oscar's body is taken away, and those closest around him all individually react to what has happened. Then, the future. Oscar is dead. He is a voiceless overseer, but he cannot come back to life. Now what? Life goes on. People have to move on, or they'll be as much of a ghost as Oscar. Some move on well, others, not so much. Yet, as we've seen proven in the finale of 2001, with death, there always comes life.

This is a bizarre, equally sadistic and wonderful world we live in, isn't it? Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Good people can do bad things, and bad people can do good things. It's not that the world hates you, it just leaves you to your own devices, and your "success" as a human being relies equal parts on your personal actions and the unspoken randomness of the universe. We get the film's version of the famous "space baby" from 2001, and without going into the exact specifics of it, if your parents hadn't have left the room while you were watching this movie already, it'll get them out of their seats faster than you've ever seen. Yet, like good ol' space baby, I truly love how Enter the Void comes back to where it all began. It's not the first film to do it, but it recognizes the cyclical nature of life and death better than almost any other movie I've seen attempt that. I would say that just believing life really is all just "sex, money, power" is missing the point, but maybe that is the point. It's up to you to decide. You are your own majestic, wonderful creation, but you are not a lone vessel of flesh and thought. You are the product of those that came before you, you are connected to those around you now, and in some kind of way, you will be there for those that come after you. Enjoy life, everybody. Prepare for emptiness, but hope for something after. Neither are known for certain, but the one thing we do have for certain is now.



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