Thursday, January 12, 2012

Enter the Void (2010)

What the hell did I just watch? I mean I know I finally watched the infamous 2010 film "Enter the Void," but I'm still stuck between choosing whether I was in more of a state of hallucinatory awe or complete shock from some of the beyond graphic scenes I witnessed. It's a rare occurrence where I'm so conflicted on a film where I don't know whether to rate it average, or just grant it a grade that's slightly above passing. However, I'm going to try my absolute best to pour out my extremely conflicted thoughts on this mindf*ck of a film.

Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is a young American drug dealer in the neon-lit nightclub environments of Tokyo, who gets shot by the police during a botched drug deal at a bar ironically titled "The Void." However after his death, he continues to watch the succeeding events from an out-of-body experience caused by the hallucinogenic drug DMT. The first thirty minutes are shot in first person along with a short sequence involving the postmortem "ghost vision," while the second half (shot in third person) explores Oscar's life leading up to his impending death and the third act is presented through Oscar's ghost vision, as he floats around Tokyo as an eye witness to the reactions his sister and closest friends have to his death.

For a lead cast that is a combination of both professionals and first-timers, every actor in this film delivers realistic performances. As a first-time actor, Nathaniel Brown delivers to a convincing enough degree as Oscar, where even though his character's face is shown only twice in the entire movie, he displays early talent of a potential international star of the future. As Oscar's emotionally damaged sister, Paz de la Huerta gives a performance that is extremely risky in several scenes, but her chemistry with Brown is very believable to convince you that they're a troubled pair of siblings. The actors overall deserve additional credit for more than just their performances, because the majority of the dialogue in the film was improvised by them, due to writer-director Gaspar Noé's lack of that aspect in his original script.

The main driving, yet supremely conflicting force of this film is visionary writer-director Gaspar Noé. Throughout the film, you can clearly hint how ambitious Noé was in creating a journey cinemagoers have never gone on before, but his overambitious tendencies manage to really get in the way of the film being reflected on a memorable degree. His decision to shoot the film in three different styles was innovative at first, but all of them slowly withstand their welcome and end up transcending into an onslaught of repetitiveness. His pacing is also considerably inconsistent, especially within the second act that's shot in third person which felt like it had taken up over 90 minutes of the film's 143 minute running time. Additionally, the first "ghost view" sequence highlights the flaws in Noé's direction where he doesn't seem to have the clearest idea on when a certain scene should really come to a halt. Likewise, Noé's inventive but fragmented narrative progressively turns into a self-indulgent mess through each act. This is especially highlighted in the last twenty minutes of the film, which both completely overdid it with its graphic content and had me rolling my eyes at the sheer absurdity of how far Noé went with certain camera angles.

However, I will not lie that the cinematography is some of the best I have seen in a film for quite awhile. Many of the shots derived from the use of very complicated crane shots, and there's one in particular that's shot in first person where you get to see Oscar's face in a mirror, and the camera is somehow erased from the reflection. Furthermore, Noé's construction of the drug hallucination sequences translate to "Tree of Life"-esque images of stunning beauty in both their bright colors and elaborate design.

"Enter the Void" is quite possibly one of the most polarizing movies I have ever seen in my life. While I do praise the film for its realistic performances, beautiful cinematography and stunning imagery, Gaspar Noé's exceedingly ambitious yet repetitive style, along with his very fragmented narrative cut this film off from being a piece of experimental cinema that I'll remember for some time. To sum up this up in the best way I can, "Enter the Void" is an eye-opening cinematic experience, but is also a progressively self-indulgent mess thanks to Noé.

Final Grade: C+


  1. good review. I've never heard of this film, but it sounds...different, to say the least.

    1. Best way to describe this film if "different." It's quite an experience, but it's one people have either loved or hated. I'm in the middle on that debate.

  2. Oh well..inspite of the grade I am intrigued. Gaspar Noe's work has always interested me.
    I have this already but finding the right frame of mind and right time to experience it.

    Great review man!