Enter the Void

This was part of a Gaspar Noe-related series of posts

Primal scene stretched to over two hours is how one might summarise Noe’s third feature (and the main reason for the Noe Saturday). No oedipal reference is left unreferred to, no transcendant light emanating from one’s genitalia during coitus is wasted … and finally Noe’s tunnel fetish rears its ugly head (pun intended). Think of the Club Silencio scene from Mulholland Dr., mix it with the journey-through-time-and-space scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, add The Prodigy’s video for “Smack My Bitch up”, and simmer it all through the eye of the man himself, you are somewhere there.

The plot (for want of a better word) revolves around Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) - a drug-dealing expatriate in Tokyo. He lives with his stripper sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) in a high-rise in Tokyo, illuminated by the million-watt srong neon lights of the city that sunshine forgot. On a trippy evening, his main client asks him to bring some gear and Oscar reluctantly agrees and heads over there with his only firend in the world, local artist Alex (Cyril Roy). But he’s been set up, the police raids the club and shoots him in the toilet as Oscar tries to flush the pills away. He then begins having an out-of-body experience (literally) and hovers above the city, observing the people in his lives.

But, before his soul leaves his body, we get a lengthy flashback to his childhood. Throughout there are more snippets of this flashback peppered around to give a little bit more insight into Oscar and Linda’s complicated relationship and how they ended up in Tokyo. It turns out their parents died in a car crash while they were little. They grew up in separate forster homes, but they make a pact to never leave each other, no mater what. Oscar comes to Tokyo first, establishes himself as a small-time dealer and saves up money to bring her sister over.

There isn’t anything linear about this story and it’s really difficult to get your head around it - nothing conventional here. Nothing is resolved, because there is nothing to resolve. What it all means is that the reasons for everything we do was conceived (literally) in the primal scene. This is nothing new or groundbreaking, but how this is shown is simply mesmerising.

Tokyo and its neon-light fetish has been a setting for many a film and manga, but nowhere was this more evident than here. It reminded me of Ryu Murakami’s novels - the degenerate generation going through their lives in abject filth and violence, under the shadows of the city’s neon lights. Although the film is considerably less violent than Murakami’s novels, it is no less disturbing for that.

Noe’s films are anything but dull and with Enter the Void, we are in the presence of a filmmaker not afraid to push the boundaries, not just in content but in form as well. This is one of the best films I have seen this year, if not the best. But also the most challenging to watch and comprehend. Top notch stuff.

And thus, I bare farewell to the Noe Saturday … on Sunday. I am still in awe of what I exerienced yesterday and Enter the Void really knocked me out. It drained me emotionally and mentally … and I’m glad it did.