Enter The Void

From the controversial director of Irreversible. Definitely not for the faint of heart or easily offended!

It has been eight years now since Gaspar Noé released his notorious rape-revenge film Irréversible, an ultra-violent, ultra-extreme movie that effortlessly exceeded in shock value anything, by anyone, at any time. I myself, having admired his previous feature, Seul Contre Tous, reacted fiercely against it as a piece of macho provocation. Rereading my review now, I find none of its points wrong exactly, but I have to concede the possibility that I was just freaked out in precisely the way Noé intended.

Enter The Void poster artworkEnter The Void is, in its way, just as provocative, just as extreme, just as mad, just as much of an outrageous ordeal. But despite its querulous melodrama and crazed Freudian pedantries, it has a human purpose the previous film lacked, and its sheer deranged brilliance is magnificent.  Love him or loathe him, Gaspar Noé is one of the very few directors who is actually trying to do something new with the medium, battling at the boundaries of the possible.

We get the classic Noé tropes: throbbing ambient soundscape, murky lighting design bursting into unwatchable vortices of dazzling light, explicit sex and violence, colossal sans-serif lettering for the title- and end-credits. This film, however, has a new motif: what we see is purely the point of view of its leading figure; we watch everything through his eyes. He is a small-time drug-dealer called Oscar (Nathaniel Brown). Irréversible had a horrific club called the Rectum; this one has a bar in Tokyo called the Void, where Oscar is shot by cops. His spirit hovers over the city, an unquiet ghost unable or unwilling to leave, watching over his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta), a pole-dancer now utterly alone in the world.

This brother and sister have a strange and tragic story: orphaned as kids, they were fostered separately, and on becoming 18, the older child Oscar apparently entered into some modest trust fund inheritance which enabled him to travel to Tokyo – a long-lost childhood longing for exotic travel – and later making enough through drugs to bring his adored sister over, and live with her in an atmosphere of incestuous yearning.

Through some bizarre karmic influence, Oscar’s spirit now sets out to part Linda from her current boyfriend, sinister tough guy Mario (Masato Tanno) and to get her together with his friend Alex (Cyril Roy), an amiable, dishevelled artist and the nearest thing this film has to a normal, sympathetic human being.

Oscar’s dead-man floating-eye view gives us a ringside seat at scenes of unending horror, violence, squalor and pain. Yet there is a kind of barking mad spiritual dimension in Noé’s film. Enter The Void is about life after death. Specifically, it’s about the life after death that troubles all of us atheists and rationalists most of all: the life after death that we all believe in – other people’s lives in this busy and unhappy world carrying on heedlessly after we are dead.

Some may find Enter The Void detestable and objectionable, though if they affect to find it boring I will not believe them. For all its hysterical excess, this beautiful, delirious, shocking film is the one which offers us that lightning bolt of terror or inspiration that we hope for at the cinema.

– Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

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