Enter the Void is the definitive film of Gaspar Noé’s career. It was a project he had been working on since the ’80s after having watched the Robert-Montgomery-as-Philip-Marlowe film Lady in the Lake whilst tripping on magic mushrooms. What Enter The Void and Lady in the Lake have in common is that both are shot completely from a first-person perspective, except for flashbacks where the protagonist’s head and shoulders are visible. Noé first started on the script at some point in the early ’90s, and it wasn’t till Irréversible become a surprise international hit—no doubt helped by the controversy surrounding the extreme violence in the film.
Oscar (Nathanial Brown) is a drug dealer, and in the first ten minutes he is shot and killed by the police after a drug deal goes horribly wrong in Tokyo. The vast majority of the film finds the audience floating as Oscar around as past, present and future all merge together in a maelstrom of psychedelia. Oscar was also tripping balls on DMT at the time of his death. He had promised his sister Linda, who is a stripper (and the two of them are uncomfortably “close”) that he would never abandon her, and you see the hellish life his sister ends up living.
It’s undoubtedly pretentious, and is clearly structured on 2001: A Space Odyssey (which was Noé’s first “psychedelic experience” and is his favourite film) because it SPOILER ends with a birth of a new human entity, which may actually be Oscar’s very own birth. However, despite it being pretentious stoner drivel, it’s also a truly remarkable piece of filmmaking. The camera movements are truly out of this world and remain some of the most jaw-dropping crane shots ever committed to film. The film puts you in a hypnotic drug-like state and never bores you, and for a film pushing over two and half hours in the director’s cut, that’s quite a feat. It also has perhaps the greatest opening credits in cinematic history, but they’ve been talked about enough over the years.
Enter the Void isn’t a film for everybody, but it remains one of the most visually stimulating films I’ve ever seen. It may just be this edgelord trying to make a film out of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which he read stoned out of his brain, but it doesn’t matter. The visual and audio onslaught you experience is too overwhelming to not appreciate at least the effort. The music is a mixture of industrial from Throbbing Gristle and Coil to classical and French electronica, and is often deeply distorted to an even more disorienting degree—which is saying something when the source material is like Throbbing Gristle’s “Hamburger Lady.” Noé’s later film Climax may be more successful in bringing his hallucinatory vision to a contained horror film scenario, but the pure ambition of Enter the Void is too intoxicating to ignore.
For some dumb reason, the film was released only on DVD in the UK initially and eventually fell out of print, so Arrow’s Blu-Ray is a welcome re-release. The film is included in both the UK theatrical and director’s cut versions, which has a difference of around 18 minutes. The two main new extras on the disc are a visual essay on the film by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicolas and a lengthy interview with the creator behind the opening credits, Tom Kan. The rest of the extras are a few featurettes, deleted scenes, various trailers and a photo gallery. The paper extras include a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jon Towlson and Rich Johnson, and an oral history of the film by Steven Hanley, a double-sided poster and some artcards.
Quickly… Arrow also released Noé’s mini-feature Lux Æterna this week, which is easily the worst thing he has ever done and feels like complete self-parody. It has all the edgy seizure-inducing visuals, but in the end it feels like a pointless exercise in visual masturbation. To somehow completely fuck up a film with Charlotte Gainsbourg and Béatrice Dalle playing fictional versions of themselves shooting a film about witches where everything that could wrong goes wrong is quite an impressive feat. It also simply a complete borefest till the final ten minutes, and by then you don’t care anymore. The disc has some interesting extras, though, including Tony Conrad’s The Flicker, which was an inspiration for Noé’s film.