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Enter The Void

June 28, 2011
Gaspar Noe obviously doesn’t like to make things easy for himself. He sets himself two pretty difficult tasks with this film; firstly, by attempting to convincingly depicting onscreen the effects of psychedelic drugs, and secondly by shooting the film entirely from the perspective (more or less) of the protagonist who “dies” a short way into the film. Having neither taken DMT nor died myself, I can’t really speak for how authentically the film replicates either of these experiences. However, I would imagine they are both pretty disorientating, and disoreintation is certainly something the film manages with aplomb; strange angles, long swooping dolly shots, epileptic-unfriendly strobing and more are unleashed on the audience, and the music and sounds design are wonderfully unnerving. However, this technical brilliance is let down a little by the quality of the writing it is in service of.
The “afterlife experiences” of Oscar, who is shot during during a drug-deal in the titular “The Void” nightclub, are based on his reading of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The reason for the quotation marks is that Noe has explicitly stated that this is not a supernatural or spiritual film in any way; the bulk of the movie is made up of man tripping on hallucinogens as his life slips away on the floor of a nighclub bathroom. Don’t worry though, this is not revealed in a Shyamlan-style twist-ending, or even explicitly stated at all for that matter. Noe doesn’t intend this as any kind of bait-and-switch, you’re never really supposed to think you are watching a genuine voyage of the soul.
Regardless of its providence, this is hardly a very original conception of what lies beyond this vale of tears. There are a few genuinely strange moments that send a chill down the spine, but also some that elicit a cringe, such as the (literal) climax of the Love Motel segment. The numerous tips of the hat to 2001: A Space Odyssey also only served to remind me how far superior that film is; Kubrick’s film seems to grasp towards some fundamental but unreachable truths about Humanity’s place in the Universe, whereas Enter The Void is all surface, albeit a surface that is often very arresting.
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