What in fuck’s name can you say about Enter The Void? Words seem laughably insufficient. They certainly seemed so to Gaspar Noé, who uses them sparsely and incidentally in his 160-minute maybe-masterpiece. Instead we are left to ponder surreal, nebulous, frequently breathtaking imagery, around which a bleak, impressionistic and occasionally baffling melodrama is fashioned. Plunging headfirst into the fuzzy, dreamlike urban cosmos of Tokyo, Noé brushes through the themes of Freud, Oedipus, and Tibetan reincarnation beliefs, of troubling sexual politics and inner-city isolation, framed through psychedelic drug trips and out-of-body experiences, barely stopping for breath.
Plot (in as much as there is one) invariably plays second fiddle to style. Benoît Debie’s camera begins in the head of an American drug dealer living in Tokyo’s neon jungles, and from his POV we spend ten minutes in the grip of a powerful hallucinatory DMT trip. Later, the camera leaves his head and floats just above the action, where it largely stays for the remainder, occupying a strange, floaty observer viewpoint. Sometimes it occupies other heads, sometimes it swoops into objects, lights, flashbacks. The transitions are always seamless. Never static, the camera moves in ways you never thought a camera could, and visually, Enter The Void is without parallel: a thrilling demonstration of cinema as visual art and a defiant statement of untapped possibilities still lurking in a versatile medium.
Nothing quite matches the promise of the gobsmacking opening half-hour, and after two hours of rather joyless meandering, it becomes an onerous watch. As Irreversible‘s uncompromising rape scenes earlier confirmed, Noé is a born provocateur, and here, graphic depictions of a fatal car crash or an abortion seem to be testing the audience’s mettle as much as anything else.
Is it a pretentious, incoherent jumble sale of ideas and imagery, a two-and-a-half-hour drug trip writ large, or a stunning, inimitable opus of visual art? The jury’s still deliberating. What cannot be disputed are the dazzlingly original heights Enter The Void manages to climb: from the retina-blistering opening titles (on which Art of The Title have a fascinating feature), to the often unpredictable plot machinations, to the seemingly physics-defying crane shots. It demands a second viewing but would take a stout constitution to return too soon. But, my God, you should watch it.