Fantastic Review: Enter The Void

By  · Published on September 29th, 2010

Editor’s note: FSR has a previously posted review of Enter The Void lovingly crafted by Landon Palmer, and it is available here. We’re covering it again because Cole Abaius and Rob Hunter exited their Fantastic Fest screening with slightly differing views. So here’s their experimental review for an experimental film…

It’s a fact that you’ve never seen anything like Enter the Void. No matter how prolific you are in your film fandom, there’s nothing under the sun that exists in the same universe as this film, and it seems clear that the cinematic world should give up the 3D fad and get on the Gasper Noe-vision bandwagon. If you’re wondering, that bandwagon involves fluidly flowing from time and location while enjoying the fruits of drug deals, strip clubs and an inordinate amount of vaginas.

Linda (Paz “where are my clothes?” de la Huerta) and Oscar (Nathaniel “where is my charisma?” Brown) lost their parents in a bloody car accident when they were just children. The siblings promised each other afterward that they would always be together, but ailing grandparents and an uncaring child welfare system split them apart. Years later Oscar is living in Tokyo’s red-light district and working as a drug dealer. He pays for Linda to join him in Japan, but shortly after her arrival he’s shot and killed. But a promise is a promise so his spirit leaves his body and floats throughout the city to watch over her as she gets naked.

The film is beautiful from beginning to end. The look of it is astonishing in the attack and conception, looking like a neon dream of Tokyo while a group of desperate people living calmly in the black market edge out a life. Director Gasper Noe uses a tracking shot (made possible by CGI) that never cuts away despite switching between points of view and locations and times. This shot opens behind the eyes of Oscar as he speaks with his sister and then takes a monster hit of some seriously (short term) hallucinatory DMT. The lights and colors on display are something simple and beautiful, and they create the out of body experience that the movie returns to many times after Oscar’s death.

If nothing else, and really, there is nothing else, the movie looks stunning and is unlike anything you’ve seen before. While it was only hinted at with the structure and camera work in Irreversible, Noé has a fascinating eye for unique visuals that stimulate and challenge your brain. They’re not always successful in the film’s context, but they’re consistently watchable.

Beyond the visuals making everything feel like an acid trip on acid, the story is a compelling look at a difficult family and the way a dead drug dealer views the world and the people he used to know as he searches for an entry point back into the world. That journey includes more than a few shocking moments and, as the film places the audience into the role of the main character, takes it very viscerally into some challenging (and fetal) places.

But there’s an extremely obvious schism between the technical and narrative halves, and while the former features a lot of creative skill and ingenuity the latter appears as lifeless as the fetus we see scraped, dumped, and flushed down the drain. And the two leads kill any chance for an emotional connection to the film thanks to their lack of acting ability. Brown’s performance is monotone and flat, and de la Huerte’s vagina is more expressive than her acting.

It’s not the plot that matters though. The movie plays more like candy coated, POV porn that mixes equal parts Being John Malkovich, existentialism and whatever hallucinogen they put in the red cups. It’s an experience. A thing, whether you like it or not, that has an effect on the viewer, and that’s something to be commended. The technical execution is outstanding, and the ride that the audience is taken on through space, time, and brain nodes is one that digs its way into the skull and then latches on for the long haul.

Enter the Void is a film of visual ideas and nothing else. It’s not nearly as offensive as it wants to be, and its entirety pales beside the power (deserved or not) of the rape in Irreversible. Noe tries to shock through graphic sex acts, an abortion, a bloody car crash, and a particular POV that plays like a deleted scene from Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, but he fails time and again. Because absent any story or characters for the viewers to attach themselves too these scenes instead play out like nothing more than disjointed vignettes of the flesh.

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