Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Enter The Void

 'Enter the Void' is not an easy film to write about. It's not an easy film to watch either, for that matter. Yet for both of these things, it's hard not to. I've been talking about it all week now and I still find any way I try to describe it to be imprecise and unsatisfying; the experience it creates really demands that it's felt, heard and seen. Which isn't to say it's a film I'd recommend you to see, lord no, but I absolutely think it's one you should see.

'Enter The Void' concerns the life and death of a man called Oscar. A man whose eyes you you'll see the entire film through. Spoilers, I guess, but it happens fairly early on and is signposted from about 2 minutes in, so deal with it. Anyway, it's his death and the journey he takes after the fact that drives the majority of the film and creates the experience I'm talking about. Oscar spends the movie travelling through the lives of those he knew in life and revisits his past and his relationship with his sister. It's not an easy ride. Something I thought about a lot while watching the film was finding the best word I could use to describe what I was watching. Harrowing came to mind. Unsettling and disturbing, too. The problem was that none of them seemed to fit and all of them made the film sound a lot worse than it is. You see, it is hard to watch, but that's the idea. Death would be fairly unsettling, I'd imagine.
It isn't some kind of intellectual odyssey either. It doesn't answer any big questions about life and death or even really offer a good interpretation of what is or is not out there, nor does it really want to. It just forces you to think about these things in a whole new way. A way that's quite compelling, refreshing and a little scary. It's as if Gasper Noe had popped your brain open and sprinkled some fairy dust inside. The question is- how evil is that fairy dust?

Not doing the best job of selling it so far, am I? Honestly, I don't think I could if I tried. What I will say though, is that it's stunning to watch. The camera work and the use of visuals are like nothing else you'll have seen. Matched with the film's incredible sound and music it is almost otherworldly. We're presented with elements that will be familiar to all of us, but they're just a little... off. Ambitious, but director Gasper Noe handles it confidently and you never question the vision he's presenting to you. The movie has it's flaws- the acting and storyline can often be poor, but part of me thinks this was a conscious decision so as not to draw your attention away from the journey we're being taken on. It is the core of the film after all.

You know, few things have ever gotten under my skin like this has. 'Fight Club' did at first (though looking back now I sometimes wonder why) as did some Cronenberg, but what 'Enter the Void' most reminds me of is Iain Banks book 'Complicity'. Banks also puts you in someone else's shoes to great effect, and it's something that has stayed with me for about 15 years. Only in the case of Banks, he's making you a murderer, not a victim. Either way, it's a powerful narrative tool when used effectively.

It isn't for everyone. I hope I've said enough to allow you to make up your mind either way. Though it does do exactly what I think cinema should do more often- create an experience, puts you somewhere else, in someone else's life (or death) in a way that only cinema can. So, if you think you're up for it, check it out. Just don't say I (sort of) didn't warn you.


  1. Summary: Great Tits interrupted by something to fuck up my appreciation, Characters with great acting (when was the acting poor son?), and 'natural dialogue' but are basically indescribable and thus I do not give a shit about them, great visuals, great camera work, shitty incomprehensible story of the standard ONLY NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS ARE IMPORTANT despite being set in Japan, and one of the few movies lacking a real antagonist or conflict. I would never watch this movie again. Though I would recommend it to people because like you said it tries to "create an experience." (loved that they even included blinking in the point of view)

  2. I have to say I found all of the acting pretty bad. Paz De La Huerta's shtick works in Boardwalk Empire, but I think she seemed way too OTT most of the time. But honestly, I don't think it really mattered and didn't detract from the overall experience for me. I agree with you about pretty much everything else though and it's definitely an experience that's worth having.