Critiques and comments

Enter the Void (2009)

Enter the Void
I was familiar on some level with Gaspar Noé's previous work, namely Seul contre tous and Irréversible, both of which I regarded slightly nauseating films, although good ones.

Enter the Void has been on my "to watch list" for nearly a year, and even before that I remember discussing it with a friend and resolving to watch it because it seemed very shiny and distant (most of all, interesting and new). The reason I put off watching it for so long is that Noé's signature slightly sickening film techniques make this type of film not something to be watched lightly (especially not in the back of a smelly, badly lit bus making its way down a winding road in the middle of the night, which is the way I first tried to watch this film). I consequently watched many many types of films last February, including those by Lynch, Sion Sono and even Cronenberg, but I always seemed to sidestep Enter the Void. I've been waiting since for the right moment to watch it properly.

First of all, I had no idea what the critical reception for this film was (perhaps that's never relevant) but somehow I thought that these three hours were a torturous, nauseating collection of pretentious panning shots across neon-lit Tokyo and not much more. This film is, however, filled with many things that keep you interested until the end.

The reason i mentioned critical reception is that people are pretty split up over this film. Some claim it's a mess, a banal, repetitive, dull depiction of a drug dealer and those around him, whereas others are impressed with both the conception and execution of the film, throwing around adjectives ranging from "ambitious" to "dazzling". I'm not really impressed by the ambition of a film, because either it aimed for something and made it, or it didn't. Perhaps "The Room" or "Manos: The Hands of Fate" could be called ambitious, but neither is impressive at all. Enter the Void on the other hand is not pretentious or dull. Perhaps it's excessive and at times drawn-out, but the theme of the movie and the aesthetics go superbly with the style of filming. Even the "electrical lighting cuts" (watch it and you'll see what I mean), though repetitive, never really get boring.

The film puts you into a somewhat sick position, as Noé clearly likes to do, but it doesn't abuse its power. It will show you grimy, filthy interiors, scenes of explicit sex completely stripped down and reduced to animal impulse, an aborted fetus, somewhat uncomfortably weird brother/sister relationships... many repulsing things you likely won't enjoy. At the same time it will present little by little a somewhat optimistic story of reincarnation, of a clean start amid all the dirt, corruption and the generally ill and inhuman climate of the world, shown through Tokyo.

I guess I like Enter the Void because it works as a knife - cutting through the slime and grime of people living short lives jammed into a city where they have to be told what to do next by neon signs; lives where drugs, partying, alcohol and sex are distractions from a complete lack of meaning. It somehow ignores all of this and shows you a glimpse of the beauty of existence, albeit in a very trippy and drug-induced way. Noé's film is banal only if you fail to realise that it's actually pointing out that the banal itself is cosmic and relevant. The film tends to bend your mind a bit to show you the miracle of the universe as one entirely in the microcosm; one entirely in the mind of the perceiver.

In the end, the film makes no particular point. I'm glad Noé didn't presume he ought to impart something that could be read as some sort of "deep truth". The film manages to touch on life, death, reincarnation, love - without ever making you want to know what it's thinking. Despite any shortcomings, it makes you happy you had the experience.

Rating: 4.0 / 5
Posted at: Jan 06, 2013 @ 17:56:03
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