TIFF 09: ENTER THE VOID Review
[Our thanks to Katarina Gligorijevic for the following review of the latest from Gaspar Noe.]
Gaspar Noé won the Palme D'Or of my heart with this 160+ minute mind-bender. Enter the Void is more of an experimental, avant-garde journey through a DayGlo heart of darkness than it is a traditional narrative. After the punishing violence of both Seul Contre Tous and Irréversible, Noé switches gears completely and attempts to intimately capture the internal, hallucinatory experience of a young man's death.
After years of living apart in foster homes, American brother and sister Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) and Linda (Paz De La Huerta) are reunited in Tokyo, where he's a low level drug dealer and she a budding stripper. The film starts out literally inside Oscar's head, registering each blink of his eyes as a momentary black screen, and showing us first hand the DMT trip he's on, which Noé depicts as a series of unfolding, expanding brilliantly-coloured spirals, fractals and delicate tendrils (a bit reminiscent of a constantly mutating science class diagram of the parts of a cell).
Soon enough, a drug deal goes terribly awry and Oscar finds himself dead on the grimy floor of a nightclub bathroom. The fact of his death doesn't change the film's point of view, it merely shifts the camera's position - rather than viewing the world from inside Oscar's head, we now have two new perspectives. When Oscar remembers Linda, their childhood and the horrific accident that claimed their parents' lives, the memories unfold with the camera hovering behind Oscar, imbuing the scenes with a voyeuristic quality, as we're forced to peek over his shoulder in order to see what's happening. Meanwhile, newly-dead Oscar floats above the action, hovering and tumbling above and around characters and buildings, giving a disorienting birds-eye view of neon-soaked Tokyo by night.
Tracking backward and forward in time and seamlessly moving in and out of narrative and visual experimentation as Oscar slowly comes to terms with his situation, Enter the Void uses rhythmic shooting techniques, strobing visuals, complex soundscapes and ambitious CGI to create a truly hypnotic atmosphere. Psychedelic drug trips, explicit sex, intense violence (and even a graphic abortion sequence) are intertwined with abstract montages of colour and light. Fans of Noé's stark brutality might be disappointed by Enter the Void's decidedly contemplative nature, but he's undeniably taking creative risks here that are as extreme as any he's taken before.
The film is an astonishingly original exploration of life, death and sexuality, and Noé is the Siren of Greek mythology, seductively mooring the viewer on the rocks of his bizarre vision, from which there is no escape. Love it or hate it, Enter the Void was the wildest, headiest trip in Cannes.
Review by Katarina Gligorijevic
Enter the Void
- Gaspar Noé
- Gaspar Noé
- Lucile Hadzihalilovic
- Nathaniel Brown
- Paz de la Huerta
- Cyril Roy