Fri 22 Oct 2010
It’s quite clear that writer/director Gaspar Noé is not interested in making films that appeal to … well, nearly anyone. Whether it’s “I Stand Alone”, “Irreversible” or his latest, “Enter the Void”, Noé takes an interesting premise and proceeds to lather the entire project in enough pretentiousness and violent/sexual overkill to ensure that ‘unsettling’ is the kindest word one may take from it all (and in case it’s unclear, I don’t mean that in a good way).
In “Enter the Void”, the film spends the opening twenty minutes with a first person view from a young drug dealer, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown). Noé is so committed to this that he adds the notion of blinking, so the audience truly feels like they’re inside Oscars head. Since this is part of the main plot, I don’t consider it a spoiler but at some point, Oscar is killed and the perspective then changes to that of his ghost, taken normally from a few feet above the ceiling and shot down at an angle.
This does provide some striking visual shots but very little else. Once Oscar is dead, we then backtrack through his life to find out how he came to be involved in drug dealing; why the relationship with his sister (Paz de la Huerta) is so strange and twisted; and we then see how the lives of everyone involved play out from there, as Oscar floats around, looking over them, and occasionally entering other people’s heads to give us another first-person perspective.
I would have been okay with all of this … had Noé simply told the story. However, he consistently feels the need to make a point with a sledgehammer rather than a pinprick and every single element of the film is over-handed to the point of ridiculousness. A decently done car crash scene is replayed over and over again, as if repetition will increase the impact it makes on us; though the ability to dissect every little bit of the scene only lessens the emotional impact because it’s no longer like a fleeting moment that haunts our psyche but rather a never ending parade of gory imagery that we become desensitized to.
Even the hallucinogenic scenes, as Oscar trips on a variety of drugs, are overdone to the point of boredom; they’re like being taken to a Pink Floyd laser light show … only there’s no Pink Floyd and I’m wondering if the patent holders to kaleidoscopes and fractal computer imagery have any standing to sue for defamation.
The rest of what ends up on screen is an epileptic nightmare (literally, as there are enough strobe light effects in the opening credits alone to make that Pokemon incident in Japan look like the smallest potatoes ever). Of course, Noé made sure to pack in enough uncomfortable sexual activity to last a lifetime and he gives us perspectives from every angle he could think of, whether or not it was a good idea, simply because he figured out how to shoot the scene.
If you’ve ever wanted to see a woman give birth topless in a hospital, it’s here (Japan doesn’t have hospital gowns?). If you’ve ever wanted to see an aborted fetus, it’s here (the slow push-in on it is really necessary!). If you’ve ever wanted to see sexual intercourse from an intra-vaginal perspective, it’s here (oh great, another thing I’ll never scrub from the recesses of my mind).
And telling you all this doesn’t allow for the fact that this is TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG! During my multiple time checks, I was exasperated to find that the first one took place at the 90 minute mark and resigned myself to the knowledge that I had another hour to go before I could even begin to shed the awful cinematic arrogance from my skin.
I sometimes take notes during screenings in order to jot down thoughts or ensure I get certain details right; this is one of the pages I took for this film:
Quite simply, I’m at a loss for a less enjoyable, more pretentious, waste of time, intelligence and money. Even with decent acting performances (in the sense that they take the script seriously somehow), “Enter the Void” gets a 0 out of 5. It pushes boundaries needlessly, going for the shock value simply because Noé thought it’d be fun to film something (not because he should) and this may be the most useless pile of celluloid I’ve ever seen.
Often, bad films are the result of filmmakers who don’t know any better but Noé clearly does, utilizing a lot of technique but never seeming to question whether the substance amounts to anything worthwhile. Don’t let your money get separated from your wallet on account of this film. Even for the price of free, this is cinematic larceny.