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Rick McGrath [Film Festival 09.12.09] drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Gaspar Noé
Writers: Gaspar Noé
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Rick McGrath
Rating: 9 out of 10

If you’ve ever wanted to see a movie that shows you what a drug trip looks like from the inside, and has a plot based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, then you’ll very much want to see Gaspar Noé’s incredibly psychedelic, down and (very) dirty Enter The Void.

The storyline is very very cool, but hardly complex, and as everyone in the theatre could guess the ending at least halfway through the movie, I’m not going to really give anything away by telling you the plot is driven by an act of revenge, an almost kinky brother-sister love story, and everything the Tibetans can teach about life after death. I found myself wondering if Tim Leary was really dead or simply outside, looking in. The plot is secondary. It’s the myriad of details that will blow you away. And those you’ll have to see for yourself.

In order to complicate the story Noé uses the time-honored flashback technique, but once revealed the narration is deceptively simple: Oscar and Linda are two young happy American kids who are in a car crash that kills their parents. As orphans they are drawn together and make a blood pact to never leave each other. This movie shows how that pledge is ultimately consummated in a way they – or you –could ever imagine. Almost immediately they are separated and placed in foster homes. They grow up and Oscar heads to Tokyo, where he falls in with some bad boys and starts taking and selling very heavy trippy drugs – the kind that are identified by letters – and is mentored by the streetwise yet sensitive artist Alex, who introduces him to drug dealers and lends him his copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which Oscar faithfully reads as though they're Ocean Breeze rehab reviews.

In the meantime, sister Linda arrives in Tokyo and goes from American go-go dancer to full out club stripper, dancing and screwing her way through Tokyo’s seamy underbelly. She likes to hang out with Oscar with her admittedly well-formed breasts also hanging out, and the thought of an incestuous relationship is never far from your mind. As a small-time drug dealer the ever-tripping Oscar supplies one regular customer named Victor, and during the initial stages of their relationship Oscar meets and is seduced by Victor’s mother. Victor finds out about this, is wildly upset, and plots revenge. Another oedipal moment? One night he calls Oscar and requests a big drug delivery at a nightclub called The Void. Already tripping on something very heavy, Oscar and Alex head to the club, and while walking there they discuss the prophesies of the Book of the Dead, which say that after you die your spirit floats around checking out opportunities for reincarnation as the baby of another couple.

Oscar finds Victor at the club and is just about to do the deal when the cops arrive. Victor has tipped them off. Hiding in an incredibly filthy bathroom Oscar tries to dump the drugs and in desperation yells at the cops pounding outside that he has a gun. Their response is to shoot through the door, and Oscar falls, mortally wounded. True enough, at the end of his fantastic death scene his spirit leaves his body and for the rest of the story we fly over and through the streets of Tokyo until Oscar finally reincarnates himself as his sister’s newborn son.


Pretty cool yarn, indeed, but that’s only half the movie – the rest is enough eye candy to fatten your retinas out of your head. The visual assault starts immediately, with an opening credits list done in a way you’ve never seen before. Then you go on an MDA (or something) trip with Oscar for about five minutes before he heads out to die and for the rest of the movie you’re strapped into the amazing ride of seeing the world from the viewpoint of Oscar’s spirit, such as watching a sperm fertilize an egg, and viewing a birth from the baby’s point of view. And on and on. It’s absolutely amazing stuff.

But wait, there’s more!

I also believe this is one of those interesting stories which takes place as a narration of the inner fantasy life of a drugged and receptive individual -- the dream of a dying man in the moments before his extinction. The name of the movie is a bit of a hint, as Oscar “enters” the void after he loses consciousness and apparently doesn’t leave it until Linda’s baby is born (although in actuality the movie’s name is derived from two Tokyo nightclubs called “Enter” and “The Void”). This connection is actually hard to miss, as Director Noé goes to great pains to introduce and explain the reincarnation concepts of the Book of the Dead moments before the shooting scene: Oscar recommends and explains the book to his sister before she leaves his tiny apartment; Alex and the tripping Oscar discuss the book on the way to the nightclub, and along the way Alex makes the significant comment that “death may be the ultimate trip”. Oscar, after being shot, has trouble convincing himself he’s dying rather than tripping – he can’t believe what’s just happened. And there’s another clue: the rest of the story is told specifically and exclusively from Oscar’s POV, either as a flashback where the camera is always just behind Oscar’s head, or as Oscar’s “spirit”, where we fly around all the familiar places and people and see all unfold through Oscar’s eyes.

There’s also the fact that as Oscar’s dream or spirit continues in time, the concrete aspects of his vision begin to break down and become confused with an elaborate model city created by Alex’s roommate, including a fantastic structure called the Love Hotel where Alex and Linda (and everyone else in the movie) are madly making love as Oscar’s spirit watches on, waiting for the precise moment to reincarnate itself. The camerawork in these sequences is breathtaking.

Speaking of breathtaking, this movie is full of sex. Explicit sex. Horny sex. Loving sex. Commercial sex. Drugged sex. All this leads to the final sex scene between Linda and Alex where we actually see a penis in the vagina from the vagina’s POV, the ejaculation, and a sperm fertilizing an egg. The audience twittered at that scene. And twitter they might, as Noé spices up the already steamy situation with flashbacks that not only suggest Oscar-Linda incest, but a strong oedipal relationship twixt Oscar and his mother. Heavy stuff.

After the final cut to black – Oscar’s actual death? – I think you’ll be close to overwhelmed with what you’ve just experienced. Stupendous cinematography, outstanding sets and models, incredible swooping shots and distortions, wacky characters, a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns, and a brutally heavy soundtrack that appears to have enough low end to generate slight anxiety attacks. Plus the trippy storyline. Can I recommend this movie enough?

And you get a lot of bang for your buck. When Enter The Void was shown at Cannes it was 163 minutes long. The TIFF version is 155 minutes long, but I understand the final commercial cut will be 135 minutes. Don’t worry, this probably won’t affect the overall movie, as there are a number of almost-gratuitous sex scenes that could easily be cut, as well as the endless flying over buildings scenes, which Noé uses to transition Oscar’s spirit from one scene to the next.

Technically, Enter The Void is superb. The acting is good when it has to be, but what you’ll come away with is memories of scene after scene of mind-blowing visuals that literally place you deep in the fantastic action that swirls inexorably to its predicted conclusion.

Enter The Void? Absolutely! But remember where the theatre’s exit is, just in case.

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zyi (12 years ago) Reply

wanna see.
still waiting for a full trailer too.


MSF (12 years ago) Reply

Gaspar Noe told the audience at the TIFF premiere that the woman giving birth isn't Linda - it's Oscar's Mother.

The last two thirds of this film were pure masterbation. Noe tired all out with the endless aerial shots andnon-existant story. At the end of the screening you could feel an anger and tension in the audience.

What was a great vision was poorly executed. The last two thirds of Into The Void are pretentious and vain. This film is a major step back in Gaspar Noe's career.


Pat (12 years ago) Reply

i cant wait to see this. there better be a directors cut with all the 163mins glory.


Paul S. (12 years ago) Reply

I couldn't agree more with MSF.

What was the purpose to keep flashing back to scenes which we've already seen?..Multiple times! Other than to annoy the audience...?...I don't know. I was really looking forward to this. After seeing it last night at TIFF, I do still believe that Noe is a genius, and I will continue to see his films, but to me, it almost seemed like he went out of his way to create the furthest thing from a crowd pleaser as possible.

It's one thing to not care what the audience thinks and to stand by your creative vision, but to inject an unnecessary amount of nausea-inducing transition shots which don't really seem to have any kind of purpose, is just too much.


Paraprakrti (12 years ago) Reply

I'm also awaiting a full trailer. There should've already been one by now.
Also, the "director's cut" is whichever the director feels is the definitive version. I am positive that it will not be the 163-minute version. And from what most people are saying - that this runs too long - I am glad. If Noe feels that the definitive form is 135-minutes, great.


Ben Austwick (12 years ago) Reply

Hye Rick, just seen this at the London Film Festival (my review is up on this site!), and there's one thing I should point out - Noe gave a Q&A afterwards where he said Oscar ISN'T reincarnated - if you look closely he is reliving his birth to his mother. It was made deliberately vague, but there you go!


Anonymous (11 years ago) Reply


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