Saturday, 14 May 2011

Watched - No 13 - Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe,2009) - trailer
Gaspar Noe's first feature length film since 2002's gruelling Irreversible has been described as a 'deranged,psychedelic melodrama', and it certainly pushes the envelope in a number of genre bending, stylistically challenging areas. I found Irreversible to be something of an interesting failure -visually impressive,artistically experimental but ultimately an auteur driven exercise in style over substance - and I have much the same feeling towards Enter the Void. No question about it, Noe works to his own unique vision and Enter the Void contains many truly memorable images and masterfully executed sequences that showcase his undoubted talent as a director. The problem for me was that for all the dizzying camerawork, shot composition, narrative manipulation and audio-visual flair on show the film still felt flat, curiously unengaging and ultimately empty.

Enter the Void tells the story of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a drug dealer living in Tokyo, and deep into experimenting with his own merchandise, whose intense relationship with his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) transcends the physical and enters into the incorporeal after he is shot and killed in a drugs raid. Oscar's spirit leaves his fatally wounded body and continues to watch over his grief stricken sibling. Noe uses the camera to evoke Oscar's wandering spirit, and the majority of the film is shot in a P.O.V. fashion, ostensibly placing the viewer inside Oscar's mind, thoughts, soul and emotions as he attempts to care for and love Linda from the other side. The unquestionably impressive visual journey undertaken by Oscar's roaming, formless presence creates a woozy,vertiginous and relentless conduit for Noe's exploration of love, mortality, sorrow and grief. If only the characters hadn't been so insufferably self obsessed, dull, unsympathetic and gratingly annoying. Not for one second did I care for any of them, and spending the best part of two and a half hours inside Oscar's 'soul' was a wearying experience. Granted, the film is centred on a disparate group of ex-pats inhabiting the underworld of Tokyo, so they were never going to be a laugh-a-minute group, but the endless whining, morose behaviour and narcissistic attitudes displayed by the leads and the supporting characters, even before Oscar's death, makes for an alienating viewing experience.

With some restraint in the editing department, and a deeper focus on providing characters that the viewer could genuinely feel for, Enter the Void could have been so much more than just an, admittedly stylish, disorienting head-trip. This stroboscopic, neon dominated frenzy of drug taking, explicit sex and random acts of violence, where ideas surrounding familial bonds, fragile friendships, death and rebirth, the corporeal and the metaphysical are primarily addressed visually, may linger in the mind due to its technical virtuosity but it failed to register on anything other than a superficial level emotionally or spiritually. That's why Enter the Void was a disappointment, feeling more like a flashy, drawn out avant-garde music video rather than the breathtaking, touching, haunting and narratively revolutionary treatment of universal themes that it was striving to be. All the elements were there for Noe, but Enter the Void feels like a missed chance to me - an experience yes, but a frustrating and unsatisfactory one.


  1. Bad times. I still wanna check this out.

  2. Well, it's definitely worth checking out for the visual experience, just didn't follow it through narratively for me.