Thursday, November 8, 2012

Enter the Void At Own Risk

I'd love to write Gasper Noe's Enter the Void off as pretentious bullshit and go about my life. But I can't. It just isn't right.

The movie will probably most appeal to the 30-something university professors from around the world who dropped acid on their journey through academia and found that all of a sudden all the pretentiousness in the world suddenly made sense and they thus had to explain it to everyone else under their own pretension that we should give a shit. It's okay, I had him in third year too. And it's okay, he only gave me a B too. Yep, it's that kind of movie.

It will also appeal, maybe be a point of fascination would be a better way of putting it, to those who are too young or too inexperienced or too undrugged to not be able to tell the difference between colourful, strobing, psychedelic Eurotrash  and art. Maybe in some cases there isn't much difference?

But, alas, the movie is, I think, to my objective mind, a masterpiece. That doesn't mean you have to like it. I doesn't even mean I like it. Regardless, let's admit: here is a film with style, technical expertise, shots so impossible it's unfathomable for the mind to conceive how they must have been done and a vision that is, for better or worse, uniquely it's own. That is, no matter you're personal feelings or preference, always worth something.

I'm sure, somewhere out there, someone could explain every little minute detail of this film's big mess of a plot and how they all connect together to form some sort of beautiful, deep, profound artistic statement. All the power to them. Noe himself has gone on record to say that the film's central theme is that of "the sentimentality of mammals and the shimmering vacuity of the human experience." Helpful.

He's also said the film was inspired by his downing a lot of drugs in his adolescence and looking at the world through different eyes. That makes more sense.

There are also musings within about the Tibetan Book of the Dead and how the film is about the hero hovering over his life after being killed by Tokyo police and traveling back to the moment of his birth, cumshot towards the camera inside the vagina and all. Yep, it's that kind of movie.

But outside of the technical brilliance of the film (and it is technically brilliant), what it all really boils down to is an equally grating and fascinating three hour long look at what it must be like to hover over a story completely zonked out of your mind. Most of the film's experience can be likened to watching a film while yourself on shrooms about a person looking down on a city, while, you guessed it, on shrooms. Double potency.

For some, maybe most who actively seek it out, that will be enough to justify at least one complete sit through.

For me though, it's not the kind of masterpiece that invites you in and asks you sit and ponder for a while and then keep coming back any time. It's also not one that bowls you over with imagines of the kind of serene beauty you've been searching the world over but have never been able to find. And it's certainly not one that, at the end of which, you sit back and feel as though your outlook on life may be a little different tomorrow.

If anything, Enter the Void is a masterpiece on the level of it's own making. It doesn't matter what it's about. What matters is that we've not only never seen this kind of narrative before, we also haven't seen anything made quite like this before. Double potency again.

If there is any personal effect I found this movie to have, it is in the film's graphic honesty. Noe, who apparently likes to write scenarios and worry about finding his characters and dialogue on set, goes a long way to making you feel every seedy, graphic detail of this story, these characters, this city, etc.

That also ties directly into the film's aesthetic. There's nowhere the camera, as much a character as any of the actors are playing, can't and won't go, nothing that is too much for our eyes to see and no imagine that can't be twisted and changed under the influence of  unfiltered film style. I don't know about the "sentimentality of mammals" but Enter the Void is never boring to say the least.

So go ahead, go see it. Maybe hate it. But maybe also study it. Find things in it that no one else has ever seen and educate the rest of us to them. Write essays about art and life and culture. Of just pop some shrooms and buckle up for the next three hours.

I suspect though, if you're going to do that, being outside and rolling in the grass or going to the zoo may be just as, if not more, fun, adventurous, life affirming, what-have-you than sitting down with this arty-farty bloated trash heap of a masterpiece. Just maybe.  


  1. My thoughts on this are not far off from yours. Particularly this: "Regardless, let's admit: here is a film with style, technical expertise, shots so impossible it's unfathomable for the mind to conceive how they must have been done and a vision that is, for better or worse, uniquely it's own. That is, no matter you're personal feelings or preference, always worth something."

    What left me wanting more was the feeling that the characterizations were a little thin, that all of this visual and thematic hoopla deserved more emotional depth, which I didn't quite get from the material. To be honest, I felt similarly about Tree of Life, although many disagree with me there.

  2. I guess emotional depth is something that is easy to forget about when you visualize a movie and it's scenarios and let the actors figure out the rest on their own on set. I tend to agree with you though, I care more about getting immersed in something personal and beautiful instead of simply what I will call "visionary" for lack of a better term.

    Thanks for stopping by Joel.

  3. I'm ambivalent about it. I love an overwhelming visionary experience. But here's the thing: those don't HAVE to have characters and stories. If you're going to add characters and stories to the mix, you have to be willing to flesh them out, let them breathe. In other words, avant-garde for its own sake is great but if you're going to do that, just let it be avant-garde for its own sake. Don't throw narrative in the mix and not expect it to add new complications.

  4. I'm on the side of this being a regular masterpiece, although sure, it doesn't really obey any rules. I find the comparisons to Tree of Life useful, though I must say, I ended up getting a lot more out of this than Tree of Life, which I thought contained a lot of what I call B-roll in its second half. At least in this movie I felt a clear momentum, as most of the story elements do proceed in a certain chronological order (except when they don't, ha ha).

    Favorite moments:

    When he takes drugs and just "goes into the ceiling" for about ten minutes. Mesmerizing.

    The car crash. For some reason this car crash disturbed me more than any car crash I've ever seen on film.

    The sheer audacity and originality of everything on screen.

    Have you seen Irreversible, and if so, what are your thoughts? I'm with that one being a masterpiece too, although I must admit, I was more disturbed by another scene in that movie than *THE* scene. I hope that doesn't come across as callous, considering that *THE* scene is what everyone knows about that movie (and you are supposed to condemn that scene in the strongest possible terms, lest you be confused for a sadist).

  5. Well boys, this is exactly what I was hoping would happen and look, it did. I guess I played middle man on this one, which makes sense since I agree with both of you equally. The film is brillant for all the reasons Vance says it is and lacking for all the reasons Joel says it is as well. Two opinions, both very articulate, both right. And, love it or hate it, look at the quality of the writing it has now inspired people to put into the world! I'm willing to deem then that Enter the Void has achieved exactly what it set out to do.