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Enter the Void

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Enter the Void

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
The French-Argentinian filmmaker Gaspar Noé doesn’t do subtlety. He’s experimental in some ways; in others, he has the refinement of Michael Bay. His last film, 2002’s backwards-told tale ‘Irréversible’, is remembered for its scenes of skull-crushing and rape. Which is a shame because it’s also worth recalling its technical daring – especially its illusion of long, whirling takes – and ability to hold a vice-like grip on you while telling a story of revenge gone wrong during one nasty night in Paris.

‘Enter the Void’ is Noé’s third feature and his first since the storm of ‘Irréversible’. It’s a more ambitious, unwieldy project: an equally kinetic attempt, with added special effects, to capture the spirit of a city, Tokyo, and a dead young  American, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), whose ghost floats about in a vaguely Buddhist manner after being shot dead by cops soon after smoking the drug DMT.

Death – and maybe the DMT – cause Oscar (and so us: this is first-person cinema) to revisit the events leading to his death.We see how he started selling drugs to pay for his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) to join him in Tokyo; how she became a stripper; how he was screwing a friend’s mum; how that friend grassed on him. The seedy is the everyday. We travel further too: to Oscar’s childhood and an accident that orphaned him and his sister.

When ‘Enter the Void’ first showed at Cannes last year, it was more than three hours long. But Noé has reached for the scissors and cut about 45 minutes, reducing the length of scenes in which the screen breaks out into fractals, echoing the look of submarine life or human capillaries or, if you’re unkind, those posters which you stare at until an eagle appears.

If you thought the camerawork in ‘Irréversible’ induced nausea, wait until you get a dose of ‘Enter the Void’. We swing in and out of buildings, tear through walls. Not only that, but we leap into the cabin of a plane and take a vagina’s eye view of a penis during sex. There’s nowhere Noé’s camera won’t go, and as his version of Tokyo is a pit of sex and drugs, we’re never far from a flash of flesh or a dose of dope.

Much about ‘Enter the Void’ is rotten. The acting stinks. Noé drops facts like lead balloons (‘Hey, have you read “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”?’). Characterisation is weak. The use of Bach’s ‘Air on a G String’ is lazy and emotionally the film is as shallow as a declaration of love on E.

But you have to admire Noé’s ballsy vision and loopy execution, and the way he sucks you into this world with such a bold fusion of sound and image. It’s not a massive leap from ‘Avatar’ to ‘Enter the Void’: both care more for style over story, both reflect their maker’s odd world view. Noé, though, has no desire to please. He’d rather repel you. See where it takes you.
Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Rated:18
  • Release date:Friday 24 September 2010
  • Duration:135 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Gaspar Noé
  • Cast:
    • Nathaniel Brown
    • Paz de la Huerta
    • Cyril Roy
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