Enter the Void
Gaspar Noé :: France :: 2009 : 2h30
A young American junkie and small time dealer in Tokyo gets shot by the police as he tries to flush his stash of drugs down the toilet. As he lies there in the foetal position, looking at this bloody hands, he feels his spirit drift away. Floating through the walls and over buildings, he sees the uninspired life which was around him continue. The life he so desperately fled through drugs. He sees his sister, for whom he should have been caring, struggle on in the urban fringe. He sees his past flash by through great bursts of psychedelic light. The young Oscar may have died.
This film may sound akin to a 60s or 70s Californian religious experience, mixing a wildly coloured LSD trip with some scaled down eastern philosophy. To a certain extent that covers the whole film, although here Oscar’s life is just soaked in nihilism. Of course the title already says as much. Oscar does not seem capable of taking any decision at all, just letting himself be jostled around. His life, and that of his sister, completely lacks any direction other than self-destruction. That makes for a frustrating watch. There is, however, some love between the characters, but that is not enough to bring any happiness or improve anyone’s wellbeing. For a story about a metaphysical religious experience, that is pretty dismal.
Perhaps the core problem of the film is, paradoxically enough, the lack of dimensions. Our protagonist junkie Oscar’s life is just too simple, as is his sister’s, in as far as we are granted a look into it. And that, is not that much. Two and a half hours of watching, and the two main characters can be described in a few lines. Rather than delving into their lives, the time is filled with pornographic material, unsavoury images and crudely put together scenes which we float over. Would that really be what a spirit saw of Oscar’s life? Is there nothing else in there worth remembering, or nowhere else in the present worth visiting?
Eight years after the extremely violent and traumatising revenge film Irreversible, Gaspar Noé shows us where he is with his development in style and technique. That floating spirit looking down on the past and the living is the eye of a hovering camera – we are put into a first-person view. It feels as light and smooth as a feather in the wind. An impressive technical feat. But all that movement has a price: a mixture of boredom and nausea. This could have been helped – an hour of the screen flashing and the out of focus twirling imagery could easily have been removed in the montage, keeping the general thought in tact. But even without that extra hour of superfluous footage, it may be more watchable, but will still not be entertaining. So why should you have to sit through it? To have a very long version of what could have been an innovative experimental short film? Well, there will be some out there – and that could be you- who will find the interest. Perhaps for those who have an obscure camera angle fetish or a love for wild colours or a thing for fractals on the big screen…