Sunday, February 6, 2011

Movie Review: Enter the Void

     When Gaspar Noe watched a film called Lady in the Lake (1947) on hallucinogenic drugs, he got the idea for what would, in 15 years, be a film called Enter the Void. Lady in the Lake, directed by Robert Montgomery, relies on one intriguing gimmick; the entire film is shot from the point of view of the protagonist. Every shot is literally through the eyes of its lead character. Of course, the film is a failure. No audience can sit and look through the eyes of a character for 90 minutes and not get torturously bored. It's like watching somebody play a video game. Boring.
     But Gaspar was tripping. He saw a different movie. In the movie he saw, these crazy lights and patterns kept covering the screen. The protagonist kept blinking, creating this strobing effect on the audience. Sometimes the character would walk through walls.
     Gaspar was impressed.
     When he left the theater with his friends, he told them about the film he had just seen. Coming out the same theater, they were wondering why their movie had been bland and overstuffed. So the idea was born, Gaspar was going to make the film he had seen.
     Here we are, fifteen years later, and Enter the Void is among us. Available for instant streaming on Netflix and Bluray, the film Gaspar saw can now be experienced by anybody with the proper equipment.
     The gimmick is still there, we are seeing through a young man's eyes for the entirety of the picture. Yet something is different here. The protagonist, Oscar, is a drug user. When he uses drugs early in the film, patterns of textured color which react to the sounds of the world appear on the screen. When he falls into a trance, the audience is invited to join in. When Oscar looks at a flame and closes his eyes, we see the after image in the darkness. When he blinks, the film goes black.
    This sounds mildly annoying. And it is. We are treated to twenty minutes of blinking, walking, hallucinating Oscar until he is [SPOILER] shot in the chest and killed early in the film. Then, for a few minutes (not exaggerating, four minutes) we are sent into a lightbulb, where it flickers in total silence, until we see the body of Oscar dead on the floor. We are still seeing from his perspective, but Oscar is now a spirit.
A screenshot from the film

     For the next two hours, Oscar travels through walls, listens in on conversations, travels through time to see himself as a young man, and moves between countries to view the lives of all the people he knew when he was alive.
     Over the course of the film, Oscar views the most important moments of his life and the hardships that people must endure alone. All of this is seen through the voyeuristic perspective of Oscar.
    What Gaspar Noe has done here is a masterpiece of cinematography. The entire film flows as if it was all done in one shot. The continuity of images is absolutely brainkilling to dissect. The images themselves are bursting with color and life. Each frame is an artwork in itself, giving us color and depth and light that is rarely seen outside of a Bertolucci film.
     The runtime is high, over 2 and a half hours, and the soundtrack varies from high volume to dead silence (leaning on the latter...). It strains the patience of those who have somewhere to be. But if you watch the film at night, when your day is over, and you let it wash over you like a good song, it will really have an emotional impact on you. The story of Oscar and his sister, of his night in Tokyo, and how it changes the lives of the people around him, is extremely profound. Not to mention the stunning, trippy visuals that fill the gaps in between the scenes.
     Also, did I mention that it has a spectacular opening titles sequence?

Click that link to see it, and click here to see the amazing trailer.

[Just so you know, Gaspar Noe made the film Irreversible, which if you haven't heard of, I suggest looking up. The film contains content that will absolutely disturb anybody. So there's that...]

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