TIFF Review: Enter the Void

Enter the Void

I don’t think a title has ever been more accurate for defining a film.  Nor has a film been as divisive in recent festival memory as to whether it is a work of genius or an exercise in audience torture.  This is not necessarily a film to love or hate though.  Rather, like his earlier film Irreversible, director Gaspar Noé, Enter the Void is as much an experiment in filmmaking and ways of storytelling through the medium of film as it is entertainment.

Oscar, a young American, makes money dealing drugs to support himself and his sister, Linda (who works as a stripper) in Tokyo.  Their parents have been dead since they were children and they have only each other to rely on.  Oscar is killed by police in the small toilet of a bar, and the film acts as his spirit flying over the city, recalling how he came to the point of his death, and what happens to his friends and sister after he is gone.

The film remains literally Oscar’s eyes, both before and after death.  While he is alive, his blinking serves as a convenient point to cut in takes, as well as a way for the audience to feel as though they are him.  After his death, the camera stands right behind his head as though he cannot see his own face, but can now see how other people viewed him in life.  The problem was, he is/was an uninteresting person, and I did not really care that he was killed.  Nor did I care very much about the other characters.

But I don’t think that was the point.  Like Jean-Luc Godard, Noé is experimenting with film itself, and with the viewer’s concept of what film is, and what narrative should be.  What if the camera were truly an eye, giving us both objective and subjective experience at the same time?  Are we too used to even typical art-house films from Europe to understand the potential of the medium, to reach outside our usual narrative for a more realistic perspective?

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That being said, it’s still too long by about thirty minutes, and I admit I dozed off a few times.  But I’m glad I saw it, if only because it is a film I will definitely think about for a long, long time.

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