Sunday, June 12, 2011

my thoughts on.... 'Enter the Void' aka 'Soudain le Vide'

This film is classified by it's creator as: "psychedelic melodrama".

French director Gaspar Noé, is a film maker that you either love or hate. I can't imagine that anyone feels luke warm about him. They may be confused by his films, but you an usually say if you loved or hated it. I have seen all of his feature length films now and I can say that I have the utmost respect for him. I don't hate his films. 'Enter the Void', in particular, is (using a phrase I don't usually use) "ground-breaking". It takes what was started with 'I Stand Alone' aka 'Seul contre tous' and 'Irreversible' and pushes it to a near breaking point. This is an exhausting 2 and a half hour journey that you had better be ready to take, because it's not for the faint at heart. Once this film is underway, you quickly realize that you're in for an experience like you've never had before. I wasn't sure I was truly ready for it, once the credits started to role. It was like being punched in the face over and over by a glove filled with opium. I felt, at times, like I might start having a seizure. Then.... the actual film started and as the camera weaved and moved within the first person perpective, I knew there was no going back. This was going to be a film that left a mark. It does take a bit of a strong stomach to watch this, not for the graphic content but for the constant movement of the camera. Like in 'Irreversible', the camera spins and rolls and twists and turns and pulls in and out of rooms and flies in the air and just never ever stops. The very few times that it becomes static, it's not a time to catch your breath.... as he does something with the sound, color and lighting that messes you up. Does this sound like something interesting to you? Or does it sound like something that you would hate or something pretentious and strictly for the snooty French filmgoers? I would like to think that this is something that everyone who loves film or art should see. If I taught a film appreciation class or a modern art class, I would make this part of the ciriculum. It is something that is so unique and new that it needs to be seen. I can't even begin to understand how in the hell Gaspar Noé put this film together. The editing alone would be a mind altering experience, but add all the effects, colors and constant shifting of perspective that I'm surprised he's not locked away in an asylum by now. I think I would be. This film is beyond amazing in its technical skill. He is in the masterclass of film makers and should be studied by others to learn how to create something of value. What about the story or the actors or everything else going on? Well, let's get to that in a moment.... here's the plot breakdown.

This is a great breakdown of the plot taken from WARNING SPOILERS! (including the ending): "The film opens with Oscar living in Tokyo, supporting himself by dealing drugs, against the advice of his sister Linda and friend Alex. Alex attempts to turn Oscar toward spirituality with The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as opposed to drug abuse, which Alex claims will "fry (his) brain". The first act follows Oscar's nightly routine through strict point-of-view shots, including momentary blackouts to represent blinking, and extended sequences of drug-induced hallucination.

Oscar and Alex leave the apartment to deliver drugs to Oscar's friend Victor. On the way, Alex explains parts of The Tibetan Book of the Dead aloud to Oscar: how the spirit of a dead person sometimes will stay among the living until it begins to experience nightmares, after which it will attempt to reincarnate. They arrive at the bar The Void. Oscar enters alone and sits down with a distressed Victor, who mutters "I'm sorry", before they are swarmed by police officers. Oscar seals himself in a bathroom stall, and attempts to flush his gear. When the toilet does not work, he yells through the door that he has a gun and will shoot. In response, the police officers open fire and hit Oscar, who falls to the floor.

Oscar's spirit rises and views his body from above, and then begins to witness his own previous life in a roughly forward-chronological order. His loving parents were killed in a violent car crash; Oscar and Linda, though devoted to each other, are separated into different foster homes; Oscar moves to Tokyo and earns money through drug dealing until he can afford to bring Linda to live with him; Linda finds work as a stripper for the nightclub owner Mario, to Oscar's distress; Oscar increases the scope of his dealing operations as well as using potent psychedelics, in particular DMT, more frequently; Victor discovers that Oscar has slept with Victor's mother, and finally, we again see Oscar meet Victor at The Void to sell him drugs, only to be shot in the bathroom.

Next, Oscar floats disembodied over Tokyo and witnesses the aftermath of his death. Linda becomes withdrawn and despondent, especially after receiving an abortion to prevent bearing Mario's child; Oscar's dealer, Bruno, destroys his stash; Alex lives in hiding on the streets, and Linda wishes she would have been with Alex instead of Mario, like Oscar had wanted her to. On one occasion Linda wishes that Oscar would come back to life; Oscar then enters Linda's head, after which he experiences how he wakes up at the morgue. He is unable to speak and Linda and Mario are disgusted by him when they arrive and pick him up. Oscar is eventually convinced by Alex that he is dreaming, and returns to watch his friends from a floating perspective.

Victor screams at his mother because she had sex with his friend and is thrown out of his parents' home. He shows up at Linda's apartment and apologises for having her brother killed, but says Linda is partially to blame since she hung around with creeps. This angers Linda, who repeatedly screams that Victor should kill himself.

Oscar hovers high above Tokyo and enters an airplane, where he sees his mother who breast-feeds a baby to whom she whispers Oscar's name. The view then drops to Linda and Alex who take a taxi to a Tokyo love hotel and have sex. Oscar moves between hotel rooms and observes several other couples also having sex in various positions. Each couple emanates a pulsating electric-like glow from their genitals. Oscar enters Alex's head and experiences having sex with his own sister. He then travels inside Linda's vagina to witness Alex's thrusting, then observes his ejaculation and follows the semen into the fertilisation of his sister's ovum.

The final scene is shot from the perspective of a baby being born to Oscar's mother. According to Gaspar Noé, it is left to the viewer to decide if this is a flashback to Oscar's birth, either genuinely or as a false memory, or if his life starts over again, trapping him in an infinite loop for all eternity.

If you read the details above, then you can see how simple the plot is, but how complex it is. It's what I love. Once I finished this film, I was exhausted. However, it was a good kind of exhaustion. I spent quite a bit of time after this film ending thinking about it and trying to decide where I stood on it. I knew I was amazed by it and was glad I spent the time watching it, however.... I just wasn't sure exactly my final thoughts would be. I even spent the majority of the morning thinking about it and mulling over the entire experience. In the end, I've settled into my final thoughts that this a masterpiece of French cinema and that Gaspar Noé has proven, once and for all, that he is a film maker to be taken seriously and I cannot wait to see what he has to offer up next.

Some things about this film that I found interesting in one way or another. One was the use of the teddy bear that his sister Linda has throughout the film. It seems like a symbol of her youth and how she never really seem to grow up properly after her parents are killed. The relationship with her and her brother is also unique. It's never clearly explained whether or not there is more to their relationship than just a brother/ sister one. It almost ends up in incest and during the film while he's out of his body, he seems to enter the body (on more than one occasion) of a man that is having sexual relations with his sister. It ends up being an important plot point at the end of the film. Also, the first person perspective of our main character, Oscar, provides a unique feel to the film. It's like living the life of someone else. You see what he sees, you feel what he feels, you experience what he experiences and Gaspar Noé goes so far as to have the camera blink when Oscar would blink. I have never had a full length feature take this gimmick that far. The biggest thing that stands out in this film is the use of color, sounds and lights. The colors are loud and never dull. It's a neon jungle. The sounds are critical. The sounds start right off the bat and never let up for the whole film. It is used to imply emotion and constantly is assaulting your ears. The lights also play a big role. You just have to see it to understand. Finally, if you decide to undertake this film, watch for the fact that it's never daylight. (or VERY seldomly) It's only at the end that the sun comes out and the whole mood shifts before the sudden abbrupt ending.

Now comes the moment of truth. What is my final thoughts? I've actually gone back and forth about this as the story is there, but minimal.... however, this film isn't just about the narritive, it's about the experience. I have never seen a film like this before and I kind of doubt I'll see another one quite like it again. This film could only have been made with modern technology. It relies heavy on it. This film has opened my eyes to the true potential of what film can do. Gaspar Noé is a man with a vision and this is the film he's been working on since he was a kid. Because of that we get the best of the best. He has outdone himself here and has given birth to something that cannot be denied a work of sheer brilliance. Is this for you? I don't know that I can honestly recommend this to someone. This film is on the DEEP end of the pool.... it's so deep in fact that it's not even in the pool anymore. I am certain that students of film will appreciate this for what it is. However, the casual film goer may not see it for what it is. Some may find this to be another pretentious French film, others may find something they never expected. Critics and film watchers alike are torn apart about this film. I can imagine readers of this blog will be too. I just ask that if you undertake this film, come prepared. Watch it with an open mind. Watch it from beginning to end. And prepare yourself for something entirely new.... 5 out of 5 stars, this is why I love film.

If you enjoy this, you might want to check out the other films of Gaspar. He's an artist working when it comes to film.


  1. I just added this to my queue, as well as his other 2 that I haven't seen. "I Stand Alone" and "Destricted." I loved "Irreversible." (Well, as much as you can "love" a movie like that... Let's just say I thought it was great.) And despite how I just trashed "Delicatessen" and how that French chick I once dated drug me to "Amelie" I do love most of the French Cinema That I've seen. So I have high hopes for these 3.

  2. 'I Stand Alone' was dark and hit me in the gut.
    'Destricted' was only good for Larry Clark's short film, for the most part.... the rest was crap. Gaspar Noe's addition was 2nd best.

    I hope you dig this.... i'm guessing if you had respect for 'Irreversible', then you just might feel the same about this.... it's along the same lines....

  3. Just finished it. As I said earlier, I was looking forward to viewing it. And I waited till I was in the mood for this type of film. (as well as when I had the time for a 2.5 hr movie) And while I have a lot of respect for the visual style, and the visuals itself, I didn't like it as much as you did, nor nearly as much as I liked Irreversible. It was kinda long, and very hard to understand. Not the plot, that was relatively simple. But the dialogue was so incredibly muffled. Halfway through, I had to switch my TV's sound to "speech," thereby muffling much of the other sounds.

    Perhaps I just had too high of hopes. I really wanted to like it.

    Good: The visuals, of course. They were cool, and remenicent of Irr. The sound, as well, was amazing. At least until I had to switch to the "speech" setting. The cutaway scenes of the crash. One of them toward the end really got me and made me jump a little.

    Bad: Too damn long. I feel it could have been made a little shorter. It was not nearly as "disturbing" as it was made out to be. By both you and some Netflix reviewers. The sex scenes felt forced and unnecessary. (did I just say that?) And by the end, the colors and such started getting a little out of hand. And by the time we got to the tip of the penis, the filmmaker was clearly just falling in love with himself.

    So yes, I did like it. I'm not sorry I watched it. But I do not think it the masterpiece that others might. I waited til I was in the mood for it and am glad I did, since it certainly is your atypical piece of filmmaking. (see what I did there? hehe)

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