Review: Enter the Void

Gaspar Noe nixes substance for style, in his follow up to Irreversible.

Lars Von Trier. Park Chan-wook. Michael Haneke. Provocative auteurs like these are masters whose works are defined by their distinctive approach to divisive subject matter. France’s Gaspar Noe looked to be one of the tribe with his first feature, Irreversible. Told in a real-time backwards narrative, the film is infamous for an unflinching nine-minute rape sequence featured in the film’s first half. Yet as the film unraveled itself, it presented a dilemma. Juxtaposed against the abhorrent sequence were intimate scenes at the end of the film that chronicled the life of the rape victim before the crime, in a profoundly moving way. The film was akin to a slap in the face, but there was no denying the boldness of the work and Noe’s grim yet exhilarating vision.

In Noe’s latest venture, Enter the Void, he audaciously tells a three-hour story of life after death with all the visual panache he employed in Irreversible. But while he’s still out to enrage and provoke, there appears to be no sincerity behind the whole endeavor. He’s forsaken any resemblance of narrative for fancy shock tactics.

Noe begins his tale through the eyes of Oscar, a young, wayward American drug dealer working in neon-drenched Tokyo. Oscar takes one last trip (in hallucinatory CGI) before ultimately meeting his death in a bar. From there on, Noe flexes his visionary muscle by having the camera act as a voyeur, peering in on Tokyo from above, sweeping across streets and people in Oscar’s life. The camera is Oscar, on a final hallucinatory trip after death.

Essentially there is no plot to the film. Noe seems intent instead on simulating the experiential state of the afterlife. To do so, his camera ruthlessly cranes in and out of light fixtures, peepholes and, in one sequence sure to divide audiences, an aborted fetus. The climax in a celestial brothel that features an orgy of un-simulated sex fulfills the requisite shock value of a Noe feature, but unlike in Irreversible, it seems included merely to titillate.

Which leads to the inherent problem with Enter the Void. Whatever point Noe is trying to make about life, death and the afterlife is lost within the plethora of repugnant images and special effects. No amount of Noe’s tricks can make up for what is ultimately an offensive, interminable, masochistic, self-conscious slog of a movie. 

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