Review: Enter the Void


I’ve been looking forward to Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void ever since I first heard of it, and I don’t even really know why. Perhaps there’s just a certain draw to confrontational cinema like this. I loathed I Stand Alone and Irreversible with all my being, and yet I still sat and watched his equally worthless sequence in Destricted. I still perked up when I saw that Enter the Voidwas coming to my city. Like a moth to flame, I am drawn to Gaspar Noé’s crap.

The real tragedy is that every time, I still have hope that I will like Noé’s next provocation. I saw Irreversible first, finding it to be a completely shallow waste of time, and then a few months later inexplicably found myself plopped in front of a couch watching I Stand Alone. As it opened, I began to perk up a bit. Maybe this one will be better. Perhaps he’s actually a good filmmaker after all. It’s a film that opens quite strongly, with an energy and wit that Irreversible lacks. Time passes. I get bored out of my mind. For the most part, that movie stinks as well.

The cycle repeats itself. Everything I read about Enter the Void fascinates me. I can’t wait to see it. By this point my disdain for Noé’s work has firmly cemented itself in my brain, but there’s something deep inside me that holds out hope. A film about a soul travelling around after death? Everything shot in first person using floating crane shots? A “wide-screen, simulated vagi-cam mega-close-up of a Brobdingnagian penis”? Curses, Noé, you’ve hooked me again. I’ll probably hate this, but I’ll be first in line. Not even due to the sliver of me that believes I might like it, but because it’s important cinema, dammit. Even a 2.5 hour-plus runtime can’t scare me off.

Sigh. Okay. The film begins with a truly stunning opening credits sequence, one of the best I’ve seen. Techno music blasts through the speakers, and a dizzying strobe effect highlights brightly-colored words that go by at a breakneck speed. Eventually each credit is given its own intricately crafted logo, which you only glimpse for a fraction of a second. This is a seriously exciting, intense few minutes, and I begin to look forward to the experience ahead of me. Foolishly, as it would turn out.

A pretty solid first act throws us right into the middle of the tale, already in progress. The proceedings are seen through the eyes of our junkie protagonist, and the basics of the story (he’s a junkie/drug dealer in Tokyo who has a close relationship with his sister) are established quickly. There’s a 2001-esque drug trip scene that I found quite engaging. The POV camera techniques are consistently impressive. All is going well until the lead character dies and his soul begins to view his backstory, recounting every detail of his relationships with his sister and the other drug dealers.

What the… but why? The best thing about the beginning of the film is that I didn’t have to see all this boring drivel! Here’s where the frustration began to set in. What’s the point of employing this amazing floating-soul-camera method if you’re just going to use it to tell the most trite drug dealer story imaginable? The various plot threads the soul jumps between (backstory of his sister, reason for his death, events after his murder, etc) vary in quality, but entirely too much time is spent on the dullest of story details. Never before has something incredibly interesting been so uninteresting.

As I suffered through well over two hours of this, I began to genuinely wish for some sort of shocking provocation. Something equivalent to Irreversible’s nine-minute rape scene ™ to at least antagonize me into engaging with what was happening on screen. It never really happened. Outside of a fairly graphic abortion scene (complete with gratuitous fetus zoom-in), Enter the Void‘s biggest provocation was how much it tried my patience. And like Noé’s other films, its biggest failing is that it’s dumb as a brick.

That said, the film is absolutely a singular experience. Some of the camera work is incredible, and it has sections that are psychadelic and surreal to the point of near-transcendence. It’s really unlike anything else, and for some (myself included!) that is enough to justify the purchase of a ticket. That’s why I’m giving this film a “see it at matinee” badge, even though I personally think it’s a big ol’ stupid piece of junk. If you’re even remotely interested in this, I strongly recommend seeing it in a theater for full effect. 

As a side note, if you’re interested in checking out a truly great film about a soul’s life after death, I strongly recommend Pitfall by Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Toby’s Score: 40 – Subpar

Tom Fronczak: It’s undeniable that the rawness in which it portrays reality — such as the seedy strip club scenes — makes Aronofsky’s The Wrestler look laughably pathetic, and all of Hollywood seem like lazy, fearful enemies of originality and truth. Even with its glaring flaws, it’s insanely refreshing to see such a fearless film embrace the edge of artistic and moral standards and wobble around fiercely. This is a film everyone needs to see at least once. You can read my full review here, but I have so many more good and bad things to say about this film that I’ll be writing a full “Deep Analysis” editorial on it next month. 83 – Great.