Enter the Void

Enter the Void ★★★

''Do you remember that pact we made? We promised to never leave each other.''

Existing in some tripped out limbo between the stargate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey and a TOOL music video, Gaspar Noé's long gestating ''Psychedelic Melodrama'' is a visual oddity to behold. With an audacious fusion of first person and over the shoulder perspective, the camera takes on it's own life a character in the film and glides over walls, in and out of bodies, pipes and a multitude of objects to offer up the ghostly perspective of our fallen protagonist as he floats through neon Tokyo on a hallucinogenic astral journey, inspired by the afterlife as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but could also and more likely be read as a post-mortem hallucination (which pays more honour to the title of the film and the final scene.)

The plot is spare, as it is certainly not Noé's focus, but more so it's the mind-bending 'experience' that he has taken the most time to craft and polish. The acting is average to bad with improvised dialogue and the story would be nearly inconsequential if not for it's playful structure of flashbacks, real-time and drug-induced visions. The emotional core that he strives for is lacking in the brother and sister relationship due a lack of focus on the writing, but the biggest issue I had though was feeling the films repetitive nature (most of the opening act is played through twice!) and it's excessive length take its toll on me as it progressed, with my mind-set moving from extremely enthusiastic in the first act, to tedium by the end, and this is certainly a flaw in the filmmaking, and one that he sought to correct with a Theatrical cut which was 45 minutes shorter.

My other big issue is in Noé's portrayal of women on screen, and I can't help but feel, there is a level of misogyny at play, or some issues he is trying to work through in his so called 'art'. Every woman here is a merely a sex object, including some obvious incestuous connection between Oscar and Linda, and although he denies this as his intent, I can't see it any other way with panty sniffing, having her tits out in front of him provocatively and some very arousing facial kisses. Whilst I also had issues with his previous film Irréversible, I hoped that Noé may have grown as a filmmaker in the seven years between films with something more to say about the human condition, but instead he maintains his provocateur status and displays to me that he doesn't really wish to explore the themes he offers up (unlike Lars von Trier for example). He tries to shoehorn a Tibetan spirituality angle into the film which feels really insincere and chooses to focus more on the drug induced hallucination angle which is spawned by the use of DMT; an extremely powerful psychedelic which is rumoured to be the same chemical reaction that is aroused in the human brain by a 'near death experience'.

So for all the interesting notes the film raises early on to be explored, I was disappointed that all I could take away from it was that 'death is the ultimate trip', and a fucking tedious one at that. I really want to reaffirm my praise for Noé's attempt to create something as visually audacious as Enter the Void, and even if peering into the void was ultimately and empty and unrewarding experience, some of the imagery and sound on display will never leave me.

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