Movie Review: Enter the Void [2009]

Enter the Void [2009]

Enter the Void [2009]
Director: Gaspar Noé
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Language: English
Country: France

Man, Gaspar Noé sure knows how to test an audience’s patience, doesn’t he?

Perhaps best known for 2002’s Irréversible, an incredibly disturbing portrayal of a rape and a murder, Noé has created another trying piece of work with 2009’s Enter the Void. At a sprawling and strung-out 161 minutes in length, ETV is not for everyone.

The movie follows a young drug-dealing American named Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) who is living in Tokyo. For the first 25 minutes or so, the movie shows Oscar’s life via a first-person point of view. This allows us to experience some pretty astonishing moments, particularly when Oscar takes a few hits of the powerful hallucinogen DMT. While Oscar is tripping, some batshit crazy visuals spin out of control on screen. Later, after snapping out of his quick but powerful trip, Oscar heads out to drop off some supply to a friend of his. The dropoff turns out to be a drug sting, and shit goes haywire from there. Oscar frantically tries to flush the drugs down a grungy toilet while the police surround him. He yells out that he has a gun, and the police instinctively shoot him from behind the door. At this point, Noé shows us his interpretation of death, as we watch Oscar leave his prone body, still from a first person point of view. This is all really powerful stuff, especially since it is all being seen directly through Oscar’s eyes.

Enter the Void [2009]

From this point forward, Oscar’s soul leaves his body and we now follow him through past and present as he experiences what is essentially the ultimate hallucinogenic trip. His soul looks back on his too-close-for-comfort relationship with his sister (Paz de la Huerta) and how they fended for themselves as orphans. He checks in on how his sister and his friend are coping with his death, and what ultimately becomes of his body.

During all of this, the streets of Tokyo are alive with pulsating and flashing lights. Ever wanted to experience an acid trip without actually taking the drug? Enter the Void may be your best bet. The lights are everywhere, often with vibrant colors that fill up the screen. This film is definitely not recommended for those sensitive to such visuals.

Enter the Void [2009]

In fact, Enter the Void is more of an audio/visual experience than anything. Between Gaspar Noé’s unique camerawork and Thomas Bangalter’s tense soundtrack, it is easy to get enamored with the spectacle of it all. Unfortunately, it seems little effort was made to provide much in the way of character depth and dialogue. These aspects are presented in a passable sort of way, but I feel that they could have been fleshed out more.

I was in awe for the first half of the movie, just sitting there while admiring the beautiful mindfuck happening before my eyes. Unfortunately, Oscar’s journey as a soul began to grow tedious after that point, and the movie dragged on a little too long. I regained interest during the ridiculous and sex-crazed final ten minutes, but that significant amount of time in between was more tiresome than anything. Only so much can be done with a concept like this, and Noé drove the point home a little too hard.

Still, even with its excessive run-time, Enter the Void is an experience unlike any other I have seen. Its almost as if Noé took the trippy sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey and expanded it into a full-length feature, twisting it into his own distorted point of view. Enter the Void could have used some mindful editing, but it is an unforgettable adventure all the same.


Movie Review: Irréversible [2002]

Irréversible [2002]

Irréversible [2002]
Directors: Gaspar Noé
Genre: Crime/Drama/Mystery
Language: French
Country: France

I have heard over and over again that Irréversible is one of the most disturbing movies ever created, and finally I had to see what all the fuss was about. Let’s just say that by the time the credits rolled, I was absolutely speechless.

First things first, believe everything you have heard. This is a brutal and often downright disgusting film, and it is painfully hard to watch. The movie is about a woman named Alex (Monica Bellucci) who is out partying with her boyfriend Marcus (real-life husband Vincent Cassel) and her ex, Pierre (Albert Dupontel). After leaving the party, she is brutally raped by a stranger (Jo Prestia) while walking home alone. When Marcus and Pierre find out what happened, they set out to get revenge on the asshole by taking justice into their own hands.

Irréversible [2002]

Irreversible is told in reverse chronological order (a la Memento) so the brutality begins right away. In the early moments, we are taken to a gay nightclub called Rectum (how subtle) where the two guys believe the rapist is hanging out. While they frantically look for the assailant, the camera is twisting and turning all over the place, making it difficult to see what is happening. Although the frequent camera shifts are initially difficult to stomach, they actually work out quite well. We don’t really NEED to see everything that is going on in order to understand the frenetic actions on screen. The topsy-turvy camera is a major part of the movie, although it thankfully gets toned down a bit as the film progresses.

During this critical early scene, the music is undeniably fierce. Thomas Bangalter’s (one half of Daft Punk) score is tense, and often terrifying in its own right. His music truly adds to the frantic pace during the early-goings. He definitely encapsulated the raw experience on screen, although it is not what I would expect from one half of the electronic duo who created “One More Time.”

By the time the infamous rape scene happens – about halfway through the movie – it is beyond difficult to watch. All of that shaky camerawork I mentioned earlier is gone during this scene. Instead, the camera sits stationary while we are forced to watch Alex get raped for nine straight minutes. It is absolutely disgusting, and to call it “fucked up” is an understatement.

Irréversible [2002]

Still, even with the obscene violence and sheer brutality, Irréversible remains a fascinating film. The brilliant reverse storytelling makes you think about the events from a different perspective. The soundtrack is menacing and perfect for the actions on screen. And the camera work initially seems out of control, but somehow it just works. Kudos to Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel for having the cojones to go through with something like this.

This is not a movie for everyone, and there is no doubt that this is a cruel and punishing 90 minutes. There are no boundaries here, which makes for an unpleasant, yet stimulating experience.

Simply put, Irreversible is a stunning film that just does not hold back.