When Kanye West copies the opening credits of your film for one of his own music videos, you know that you have something special – that strange merging of subculture and mainstream is just one of the many strange and wonderful things about Enter The Void, Gasper Noe’s latest and greatest work.
As the controversial director of Irreversible and I Stand Alone, Gasper Noe’s work repulses and confounds the viewer. Admitting that he often tries to push the viewer to their physical limits with regards to sound and visuals (with twisting, floating, sickness-inducing cinematography and throbbing brown-sound audio), his films are things to be withstood rather than consumed. This film remains true to his style, and in fact takes it much further than ever before, while also showing Noe at his most beautiful and meaningful.
Oscar is an ex-pat American, barely surviving in the Tokyo of a Hello Kitty nightmare – a writhing neon sweatbox of paedophilic drug dealers and lethargic strippers. The group with which he has surrounded himself see themselves as bohemian types when, in actual fact, they are just killing themselves. Alex, probably Oscar’s best friend aside from Oscar’s sister Linda, gives him a copy of the Tibetan book of the dead, which informs some spiritual awakening in him. One thing leads to another and Oscar finds himself in trouble and on a journey around Tokyo.
The film establishes itself early on as being shown from Alex’s perspective, with impressive scenes in which Alex talks to himself in the mirror and washes his face. The narrative takes a turn after a drug deal goes wrong and the style of the film changes – Gaspar Noe’s camera becomes schizophrenic and, like it was caught up in a day-glo hurricane, somehow rushes the viewer around Tokyo’s many dirty alleys, seedy nightclubs, and drug dealers.
Lost In Translation it ain’t. This is a Tokyo that is rarely seen in cinemas, a Tokyo of exploitation and degradation. A Tokyo in which corruption is rife and exists around every corner. But the focus of this film isn’t story, or dialogue – these are merely vehicles for the visuals to hitch themselves onto, to drive the film. The CGI is incredible, and the camera work is intense to say the least. Irreversible set the benchmark for his style but Enter The Void takes it much further than before. The viewer is taken inside bodies, through walls, into light fixtures, and everywhere else. The film is supposed to be akin to a drug trip, and is a real technical achievement.
But don’t think that’s all this film offers. The scenes in which Oscar and his sister are young and playing together are touching, and almost seem like they are taken from another film. Not that they don’t fit in with the narrative, because they completely do – it’s just such a departure from the rest of the film, which revels in degradation and fuzzy exploitation, to show such clear-headed and loving warmth. These small scenes show that Noe is able to make mainstream, lovely images, but he chooses not to. He chooses to make masterpieces of disgusting, broken lives, and is all the better for it. He is clearly an extremely gifted filmmaker; this film may as well have been called 2001: A Drug Odyssey, it’s that good. It’s certainly one of the best films of 2010.
Best line: ‘I’ve got a gun I’m gonna shoot!’