This highly immersive film, the most ambitious and provocative to
date by filmmaker Gaspar Noe, proves that truly bold, risk-taking,
precedent-setting cinema is still possible. Its subject? Nothing less
than the journey of the human soul after death, as elucidated in the
TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD and presented here as the ultimate acid trip.
ENTER THE VOID (completed in late 2009 but not released
until 2010) is the long-awaited third feature by Gaspar Noe, following I
STAND ALONE (1998) and
IRREVERSIBLE (2002). Those films demonstrated a formidable
command of the medium and a love of shock, two things very much in
evidence in ENTER THE VOID.
Noe pulls off something that filmmakers from Orson
Welles to Francis Ford Coppola have attempted over the years but never
accomplished: a film lensed entirely from a single person’s POV. This
was done at least once before, in director/star Robert Montgomery’s 1947
film noir LADY IN THE LAKE. Noe claims the inspiration for ENTER THE
VOID came from viewing Montgomery’s film while high on drugs, which I
Oscar is a young Tokyo based drug dealer who’s been
reading the TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD. One night, after dipping into his
own drug supply and hallucinating (thus setting the overall tone), Oscar
heads for a club called The Void. It turns out he’s been set up by a
friend, who has called the police on Oscar. As the cops burst into the
club Oscar locks himself in The Void’s tiny bathroom and frantically
attempts to flush his drug stash--but then he’s suddenly shot and
killed. Before dying Oscar thinks about his sister, who is also living
in Tokyo and working as a stripper/prostitute.
Leaving his physical body slumped in the bathroom,
Oscar’s soul drifts off to where his sis is having sex with a john.
After this she receives a call on her cell phone informing her that her
brother has died.
From there Oscar takes a trip back through his brief
life, marked by a car accident that claimed the lives of his parents
years earlier during a family vacation in Tokyo. Since then Oscar and
his sister have stayed put, vowing never to leave each other.
Back in the present Oscar’s soul drifts around Tokyo,
soaring through the air and checking in on the activities of his
sister--who among other things becomes pregnant and has an abortion.
Oscar’s soul also spends time in a hallucinatory hotel where everyone is
having torrid sex before coming to a final rest in the belly of his
sister. He does so just as she’s getting impregnated once again, thus
providing an ideal vessel for his reincarnation.
To get the full effect of this film’s amazing
audio-visual barrage you simply must experience it on a big
screen. But if you do so be prepared for a lot of inappropriate laugher,
as there’s really no other way to react to (for instance) a vagina’s-eye
view of a penis shooting jizz at us. To Noe’s credit, he’s not afraid of
He’s also not especially concerned about boring his
audience with uneventful shots that drag on for several minutes and a
punishing 161-minute running time. Much of the film has a near-hypnotic
flow, but seemingly every time one is tempted to surrender to it Noe
abruptly snaps us out of our trance with something shocking and horrific
(i.e. numerous replays of the violent car crash that took the
lives of the protagonist’s parents and a close-up view of an aborted
This is one of the trippiest movies of all time. It
begins with an elaborate CGI acid trip and continues in that vein
throughout, with swirling, gliding camerawork (operated by Noe himself)
and bright, eye-burning colors that tend to strobe. The multi-layered
soundtrack further enhances the druggy vibe, and the whole thing takes
place almost entirely amid the glittery lightscape of nocturnal Tokyo, a
setting as psychedelic as any acid trip.
It’s a good thing the film is so technically grounded,
as the human element is somewhat lacking (the protagonist being
essentially a nonentity) and the acting quite poor. Yet from a pure
filmmaking standpoint the film is a mind-boggling achievement. For all
its annoyances there is truly nothing else like ENTER THE VOID.
ENTER THE VOID
Fidelite Films/Wild Bunch/BUF
Director: Gaspar Noe
Producers: Pierre Buffin, Olivier Delbosc, Vincent Maraval, Marc
Missonnier, Gaspar Noe
Screenplay: Gaspar Noe, Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Cinematography: Benoit Debie
Editing: Marc Boucrot, Gaspar Noe
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander,
Masato Tanno, Ed Spear, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Kuhn