A not-so-final destination – Enter the Void review

Enter the Void – Starring Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta. Directed by Gaspar Noé. Rated R. By Hilary Simmons.

In-your-face French director Gaspar Noé has a new film, featuring all the drug-induced thrills, messy mental spills and sexually explicit frills that we’ve come to expect from the demagogic maverick who made that notorious rape-revenge film, Irréversible. Enter the Void is a metaphysical trip through a kaleidoscope of altered states that is so neon-lit it hurts; the sado-stroboscopic nightmare-porn aesthetic wears out your eyes. Cinematically accomplished and conceptually audacious as it may be, Peter Brunette hit the nail on the head when he dubbed it “virtually unwatchable”.

The swooping and soaring camera work takes a POV perspective from the protagonist Oscar’s (Nathaniel Brown) cranium, allowing us to stumble through a 137-minute acid trip into his childhood, his death, his (negligible) rebirth, and the seamier side of Tokyo’s nightlife. The fact that Oscar is deceased for almost the entire duration of his narration is metaphorically reinforced by his drug of choice, DMT, allegedly the chemical the brain produces when you die. Oscar’s world is a lurid, oversexed, hallucinatory wonderland; the camera lens lurches off conscious limits into feverish Freudian pedantries.

While each frame is crafted with genuine technical skill, Enter the Void is deliberately disorientating, self-consciously controversial, and agonizingly anguished. Hipsters will love this film – expect to hear the words cult-classic, psychedelic and visionary bandied around – being, as it is, a tour de force of imaginative nihilism. Noé pulls out a ringside seat to a psychosomatic version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, and places you firmly in the seat of cinematic voyeur. It’s impossible not to feel either titillated or traumatised by the graphic scenes of subconscious desire, incestuous squalor, and sexual surrender, so in terms of trouble-mongering a reaction out of his viewer, Noé indubitably succeeds. But the problem with hysterical excess is that it is indeed excessive, and harrowing scenes of horror tend to lose their impact if they are repeated over and over again.

Noé has said that “to make a good melodrama you need sperm, blood and tears,” but Enter the Void fails to really be much more than a pitch-quote for primal therapy.

2/5

Enter the Void is now available on DVD.

4 Responses to “A not-so-final destination – Enter the Void review”

  1. interesting. personally, it was my favourite movie of this year, having watched the original extended cut a few months ago. sure it was 2am when i started watching it but it got inside my head from the start and hasn’t quite left since. I’ll give you that there are a couple of scenes in there repeated needlessly and a couple put in merely to shock, but I felt it was a truly ambitious and in a lot of ways successful forward thinking, intelligent movie.
    I’ve always been a fan of ‘moment of death nightmare’ movies though, david lynch is my favourite director and with this movie it seemed to be Noe may be on his way to an A-level arty director status.
    Of course, what is my opinion worth? I’m just a punter who likes run-on sentences. Having read your previous reviews though I’m genuinely surprised at this one. I think you should give it another go (and make sure it has ALL scenes included. Sure, you have to suffer through many minutes more of the hallucinogenic dream sequences (I’ll admit, i fast forwarded a lot of the pretty light shows that had no actual ‘live’ action in them after a couple of minutes) but you also get a few scenes that really fill out the story, what there is of it anyway.
    And watch with headphones. I can’t stress this enough.

    • Hi panosd,

      Just want to stress that this review was by our writer Hilary Simmons, and not myself (only because you mentioned ‘previous reviews’, and this is one of Hilary’s first DVD reviews for the site).

      I actually quite liked the film, even if it isn’t a patch on Noe’s previous masterpiece IRREVERSIBLE, or David Lynch’s brilliant ‘moment of death nightmare’ MULHOLLAND DRIVE.

      I do think Hilary puts forward a good argument about the film’s “self-consciously controversial” nature. The repetition and sledge-hammering of the metaphors becomes tiresome (not just nauseating). Still, pretty lights! Great review Hil.

      Simon

  2. I agree that I should give it another go, actually; maybe even with headphones this time for a truly immersive experience. It has continued to nudge and insinuate around the corners of my mind since seeing it, and since I’m also just a punter who likes run-on sentences, I’m prepared to give it another shot!

    thanks for the backing words, Simon, I totally agree that it isn’t a patch on Irreversible (yes, that really got to me).

  3. I think it’s a must-watch film. as perverse as it is, it’s still very pensive. i think the profound elements (Book of the Dead, afterlife, sibling love) are so subtle (compared to the garish sex-fests) that lot of people have misunderstood Noe’s intentions. personally i was so inspired by this film that i wrote a piece of music about it. feel free to listen!

    http://www.youtube.com/minidocj#p/a/u/1/xfSy1Qwn4HA

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