French provocateur Gaspar Noé is back with his new film, “Enter the Void.” According to the final title card of the film the titular “Void” is that of life in general, with death being the true reason for living, however after sitting through the thankfully truncated yet still painfully long version released in American cinemas it can only be said that the only “Void” present in the film is the film itself.
“Void” starts on a high note, both figuratively and literally, with what could possibly be the best, most creative head credit sequences since David Fincher’s “Seven.” Unfortunately these first three minutes of the film are the best, and the other one hundred and thirty four are just dull.
After the credits the film quickly plunges downhill as the story unfolds of a drug dealing expatriate teen, Oscar, (newcomer Nathaniel Brown) in Tokyo who is killed, and his spirit floats around the city visiting his sister, Linda, (Paz de la Huerta) and friends as the spirit tries to decide whether to move onto a higher plane of existence, or be reincarnated. The film is shot entirely as Oscar’s POV, both alive and dead, and while the camera work is spectacular, showing Tokyo as it has never been seen before, the gimmick is neither as revolutionary, nor as exciting, as Noé obviously thinks it is. Comparisons to “The Blair Witch Project,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” the 1997 video for The Prodigy’s, “Smack My Bitch Up,” and even Noé’s own, “Irreversible” come to mind, and all arguably use the technique of POV to better results.
Though regardless of the derivative nature of “Void’s” solitary conceit the film does little to nothing with the story to make the picture interesting. During the beginning sequence of the film Oscar’s friend Alex (Cyril Roy) describes the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” to Oscar, and after Oscar is predictably gunned down his spirit goes through the exact motions Alex described. This is true to most every film; in the first five minutes some character will tell the audience exactly what will happen for the rest of the film, however usually the writers will make an effort to surprise the audience as to how those events unfold. Here writers Noé and Lucile Hadzihalilovic make no such effort. The film goes step-by-step down Alex’s list, and the ending is predictable, to be kind.
Though Noé does try to shock his audience. Where his previous film, “Irreversible” successfully beats the audience over the head with the vicious brutality of the fight and rape scenes, “Void” makes an attempt, but can’t connect. The pervasive sexuality, genitalia, and even graphic depictions of abortion fail to titillate or revolt. Viewers with any familiarity with the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Matthew Barney, or Tony Kaye will find Noé’s images tame in comparison, and thus completely ineffective.
Also ineffective are the performances throughout, with Paz de la Huerta as a particular culprit in this department. Noé has attributed her casting due to her willingness, even desire, to appear naked on film, and as such her acting was immaterial in the decision. It shows. Never a more abrasive and plastic performance has drawn a film into lower depths than every time she appears on screen.
The only facet of the film that is successful is portraying a feeling of hallucination. For anyone that has experimented with hallucinogenic drugs the film gets pretty close to portraying the experience accurately. The vibrancy of the images is stunning beyond that of any film in years. Not since Wong Kar-Wai’s “Fallen Angels” has there been this much neon put to film, and despite all other criticism parts of “Void” are beautiful to behold. The only problem with this is that for anyone not in the thrall of those hallucinogenic drugs the experience can be a redundant bore. Along with sobriety comes the virtue of a short term memory thus a scene of Oscar’s spirit entering a light bulb, and being treated to two minutes of flashing lights is fine… once, but every five minutes for two hours is a bit much.
Overall “Void” is less of a film than an expensive art project gone wrong. Had this picture appeared in a museum alongside other hollow, yet visually interesting video art, all based off of lofty ideas either too easily grasped by the viewers, or too esoteric for anyone to discern, then it could have been a success. And that is only because one can walk in and out, getting the gist without having to sit through two hours of the same thing over and over again.
El Luchador Rating: El Luchador Rating:
Review By: Paul S. Myers (a.k.a. El Luchador)