Enter the Void
Details: (R18+), 161 mins , France,
Synopsis: Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) and his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) have recently started living in Tokyo. Oscar survives by small drug deals, while Linda is a stripper in a nightclub. One evening, during a police raid, Oscar is hit by a bullet. While he lies dying, his soul, faithful to the promise made to his sister to never abandon her, refuses to leave the world of the living. His mind then wanders through the city and his visions become increasingly chaotic and nightmarish.
A sordid journey of the spirit.
Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void is by definition, a technical masterpiece, for successfully accomplishing a (mostly) real-time first-person spiritual odyssey. However, the question of whether the end justifies the means has never been more pertinent than with this bewildering, confusing, exhilarating, and infuriating folly from one of cinema’s most self-indulgent visionaries.
Initially, Noé follows the mortal form of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), a scorched drug addict dabbling in big-time pushing whilst sharing a messy apartment in Tokyo with his emotionally-scarred sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta). When a drug deal goes wrong, the focus of the film becomes Oscar’s disembodied soul. At first tentatively floating away from his bloody body (in a believable moment-of-death experience), Oscar’s life force proceeds to glide above glistening streets, through roofs and along hallway ceilings in an other-worldly investigation of his own death and, more importantly, a meaningful re-emergence back to the earthly plane.
Every moment of this ultra-high concept work threatens to teeter over into either
melodrama or inanity; for some audience members who shared the viewing experience with SBS at the Adelaide Film Festival earlier this year, the film represented too much of both. (A handful of walkouts eventuated.) Scenes that inspired hoots of derision mid-screening and choruses of “Oh my God, that was amazing!” post-screening, include a dizzying journey through a psychedelic, full-penetration scene (in a brothel) and a heretofore unforeseen angle of the point of conception. The most disturbing scenes, however, are the all-too-real flashbacks of the car accident that claimed Oscar’s and Linda’s parents.
Having endured Noé’s sensory onslaught, are there any profound, take-away messages from its interpretation of ‘the Other Side’? Not really, no. Noé’s work simply supports the centuries-old notion that spirits live amongst us, existing concurrently if invisibly, by our side. Broken down to its base elements, it’s a detective-ghost story, not unlike M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999), albeit one driven by some dazzling filmmaking bravado.
Notably, the film thumbs its nose at Western religious beliefs and sides entirely with the Eastern-centric concept of reincarnation, primarily as presented in the Tibetan Book of the Dead (which is referenced rather clumsily in the opening sequence at Linda’s unit). The text of the book, a work from the 8th century A.D. and referred to as Bardo Thodol, acts as a guide for the dead during the spiritual state that exists between death and rebirth. Oscar’s spectral journey is exactly that, juiced up by a wildly talented bad-boy filmmaker indulging in every aspect of the sordid, sad elements of his dead protagonist’s final days. If his film offers a faint glimmer of redemption in the final moments of its 161-minute running time, it doesn’t come a moment too soon.
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