If you thought that Gasper Noe's "Irreversible" was an assault on the senses and the stomach, then you haven't seen anything yet, or at least, you haven't until you've seen his latest. "Enter the Void" is indeed a film, but it goes beyond the definition of one and delivers something along the lines of a drug gearing towards the cinematic. You absorb it, snort it, taste it, feel it; you can take Noe's film in however you please. It's not for a good amount of movie-goers, but those who feel at home with ambitious epics such as "2001: A Space Odyssey" should understand what kind of experience the director was trying to create here.
When a film is released - a film unlike anything we have ever seen before - we tend to react in different ways. A lot of the time, ambitious films, such as this one, are dismissed as being pretentious. There are indeed limits to what you can do with a movie, but when you become apathetic of these limits, you can make something truly different. This film will be hated by many. I was on the edge about it myself for a lot of the time. And then, I recalled Stanley Kubrick's "2001", the film I mentioned above, and I recognized that film is a visual medium. New images can tell new stories; and we need that. If someone doesn't just go completely nuts or over-the-top insane once in a while, then we'll be bored. So instead of complaining about the repetition and sickly feeling that comes with "Enter the Void", I think we should all consider cherishing its existence. It isn't pleasant, but it is philosophical and consistently interesting; it might as well be Noe's own little way of delivering a safe, two-hour-and-forty-minutes acid trip.
Tokyo drug dealer Oscar (Nathanial Brown) tries to provide for his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), a stripper, and himself. He doesn't necessarily live a happy life; as he has his friends, fellow dealers, and also his enemies. One day, while delivering drugs to a costumer, he is set up; cheated, lied to. The costumer has turned Oscar in to the police by force, and once our hero realizes this, he bolts for the bathroom, where he fails to dispose of the drugs that he has on him, and as a result of not being punished for his dealings, is shot dead by the Tokyo authorities.
After Oscar dies in his first life, his second existence begins. Most of the rest of the film follows the philosophy of life-after-death stated in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which Oscar was reading in the beginning of the film (one of his friends has lent it to him). As the book says, Oscar is given the ability to float over Tokyo. This allows him to look over the lives of others, and in particular, he chooses to look after his sister.
It is implied that Oscar is searching for reincarnation. He probably is; even though Gaspar Noe himself claims that this is not a very spiritual film, in which reincarnation is not within the big picture. Noe actually claims that the entire film is a dream, but I believe that, by the way he ends it and the way he presents the film as a whole, we're supposed to think for ourselves; as that is how the best of films work. We don't need to be spoon-fed a directorial vision, do we? I would hope not.
Oscar also recalls his troubled past, his pact with his sister (to never leave her side), the death of their parents, and the separation of the two siblings. Finally, we see how the two reunited once again. Then, the film begins to consistently loop; repeating itself as it will. I'm sure this is a part of the experience, and you know what; it means something, so it's all good. Repetition is when a film or a story repeats itself to the point of annoyance. This is not your typical example when it comes to the definition of the word.
"Enter the Void" is a beautiful mess; perhaps the most beautiful one ever made. It refuses to tell its story like most films do, and it refuses to conform stylistically as well. The story that it tells is an often tragic, often epic, always ambitious one. Some might not feel what I felt while watching it. There is an emotional investment to be made in the film, if you allow yourself to do so. However, I know others who believe this is a great film, so thank goodness for not being alone.
But will the film find its audience? Someday, I believe it shall. The critics are divided enough for it to be a cult classic whenever it does get more recognition for its style and its uniqueness. I could indeed see it being a successful Midnight Movie, given how "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", another "drug film", was met with a similar fate. Noe's film is highlighted by its visual flare; the city of Tokyo given a dark atmosphere, but also laden with bright, flashing lights. And the film CARES about such lights; so much, in fact, that you could even call the experience nauseating. Noe employs several interesting, different cinematic techniques to give his film its look; and he even uses some special effects, but he puts them to good use. In the end, the film is a perfect example of a cinematic acid trip. It's an experience, not a movie; and it may be hard to swallow, but looking into it, I was fascinated.
There are reasons why you might want to stay away from "Enter the Void", but there are also reasons why I'd recommend at least checking it out. It blends elements from both a good trip and a bad trip for its hallucinogenic quality. I appreciate the film, and I believe it's a modern masterpiece. However, if you are offended by graphic sexuality, drug use, profanity, or violence; then you may want to stay away. Also, if you're an epileptic; this is the equivalent of hell. But you'll know that from the opening credits sequence, which is one of the best I've seen. Gaspar Noe has finally made his masterpiece; found his film. And it's pretty damn trippy.