Anyone who’s ever had a mushroom trip described to them knows that the trip itself is kind of a “had-to-be-there” experience, and this is the case with Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void: summary really doesn’t do the film justice. Because there is very little to be gained from plot or dialogue, a much more pleasant viewing experience is in store if you tune them out and just focus on Noé’s visual wizardry. The opening credits are both a type-nerd’s dream and an epileptic’s nightmare—titles displayed in neon flash across the screen with loud techno music blasting behind them (duuude). The film opens with Linda (Paz de la Huerta) gazing at a plane in the Tokyo sky from the point of view of her brother Oscar (Nathaniel Brown)—his literal POV, along with the sound of his breathing and the blinking of his eyes. Within the first 15 minutes Oscar is killed in a drug bust in a club and the rest of the movie is spent toggling back and forth through past and present as Oscar’s soul swoops and spirals through a Noé-ified version of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The camera is inside Oscar, so it goes wherever he does. Noé takes full advantage of Oscar’s spirit state to transport the camera up, over, around, and through his dingy, neon Tokyo (and even inside some of its residents). He toys with cinematic clichés as well: the sentimental sun-dappled memory; the gritty, horrific flashback; and the animated drug-trip scene are all purposefully represented. Thankfully, the bloated and pretentious premise of the film has glimmers of over-the-top humor—in one of the final scenes, Oscar-Cam zips through copulating couples in a garish love hotel where rainbow vapor trails stream out of genitalia. As Noé obfuscates the film’s timeline—various snippets of Oscar’s past play out of order and repeat—a biography is set on shuffle mode. With mega-budget 3D blockbusters packing multiplexes, Enter the Void is spectacle at its most artful. Perhaps there are some more intellectual tropes at play in Void (film director as ghost? cinema as hallucinogen?), but, as is the case with most psychedelics, it’s better to just sit back and enjoy the pretty colors flying at you.
—Lena Valencia is a writer living in Brooklyn. She is also BOMB’s Web Editor.
Enter the Void will be released in selected cinemas in New York City on September 24th.