Fifty years ago there were far fewer genres of film; Drama, Thriller, Comedy, Action and Horror being the predominant categories that most films would fall into. There was no reason to really over complicate things with genre because cinema had not developed into as mainstream a media platform that it was necessary to do so. Making feature length film was an incredibly difficult process, that was extremely expensive to do so the making of film was put into the hands of the few true artists who knew exactly how to create quality cinema, the boundaries of genre did not need to be pushed because they were still really under construction. Enter the 70s and 80s and cinema had really began to split the boundaries of genre creating new ones in the process; films like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” showed that horror did not have to be just a medium of psychological tension but instead could use jump scares and colourful antagonists to create the dawn of the “Slasher Horror”. Films that focused on the rise and fall of criminal structure gave birth to the “Gangster Flick” and large breasted blondes with bushy orifices gave us the dawn of the “Pornographic Feature Length Presentation”.
As we reached the year 2000 it would be nothing out of the ordinary to hear about the new; “Rom-Com”,”Sci-fi Action Thriller”,”Zombie B-Movie Grindhouse Horror” etc. The point is as writing, direction, production and development progressed and became a more widely spread art form, More and more artists and new thinkers started doing their bit for the medium of cinema leading to a blossoming of Audio/Visual creativity.
Then Something Happened…
At some point after the dawn of the millennium it seemed that everybody had run out of ideas, and instead of trying to develop films by experimenting with pushing the boundaries of film and developing genre film writers were getting sloppy.
The reasoning for this ?
Well the main reason to my opinion would be that writers became less bothered about creating truly unique pieces of cinema and instead pre-occupied their time with jumping on any old bandwagon in an act of laziness so tragic, that the sheep population of Australia would label them unoriginal. This happened very noticeably with Zombies, and I find it quite ironic that the genre itself has now bred its own legion of brain dead, emotionless film makers that can’t even write a car chase unless a herd of rotting cadavers are chasing the drivers. Its not just the writers fault though it seem the mass populous are just happy to watch the same film over and over again just with different actors.
Anyway the other reason to my opinion that film was not developing as an art form was because to be fair a lot of area had been explored in terms of film. We have come a long way from the simple days of action and romance and are now in an age where genres such as “Vampire Romance” and “Apocalypse Thriller” are as common as “Psychological Horror”. Even the terms “Avant Garde” and “experimental” draw our minds more to a particular style of film as opposed to the lack of genre these labels were originally used to symbolise.
So in this day and age where pretty much every scenario possibly liveable by man in the realms of fantasy or reality are covered by some kind of label that groups them among other films it is very fucking hard to find a truly original piece of film the defies genre and blows your fucking mind like a shotgun handkerchief !
Written and directed by cult director “Gaspar Noé” Enter the void is less of a film and more of an audio/visual simulator through life, death and reincarnation. Before I even attempt to give a review of this film I am going to … attempt to give a synopsis but for those of you who have seen this film before I hope you understand what a challenge this is going to be. Anyway Spoiler Alert.
Hmmm … It’s really quite hard to know where to start when explaining the plot due to the fact that Noé really isn’t one for chronological order, and as with some of his previous works the narrative to this film unravels in a pretty fucking unconventional way … And when taking into consideration how unconventional the plot is anyway it soon becomes apparent that if your somebody who struggles to follow the plot of “Memento” properly without constantly rewinding to check back on the scene before then you are going to struggle because this film makes “Donnie Darko” look like “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.
With that in mind I think the best way to analyse the plot of this film would be to start where the film starts which chronologically is kind of the middle. The film opens through the eyes of our protagonist “Oscar” (Played by Nathaniel Brown… No me either) who is an american living in Tokyo who deals drugs and lives with his younger sister “Linda” (played by Paz de la Huerta who ironically is 4 years older than Nathaniel Brown but fuck it we’ll go with it). Though little is known about these characters at this point in the film the two things that can be established are that Oscar deals drugs and has a taste for DMT (An extremely potent and naturally occurring psychedelic drug that works as an underlying theme for the film as a whole however I will cover this later) and Linda is some description of prostitute. The film explains very little at the beginning placing the viewer slap bang in the middle of the narrative. Linda leaves the Tokyo apartment after a brief argument with Oscar, Oscar then precedes to raid his own stash for a cheeky pipe of DMT … Now this is where the film really starts to show you what its about as the following DMT experience is both visually incredible and also quite accurate (if your one of those people who hates seeing trips done badly in film and television then you will love this film because as somebody who has actually experimented with DMT myself I can tell you that this film captures the visual side of DMT perfectly). Halfway through his trip Oscar receives a call from “Victor” (Played by Olly Alexander who is apparently known mostly for his role alongside Jack Black in Gulliver’s Travels which I could not give less fucks about if I tried). Victor at this point is only established as Oscars partner in crime who calls Oscar to tell him to bring his stash to a club called The Void. The next character to be introduced is the gruff,presumably 400 a day smoker and Frenchman “Alex” (Played by Cyril Roy who again is pretty much an unknown). As with Oscar and Linda very little is established about this character other than like Oscar he is quite the fan of narcotics and has an interest in Tibetan Buddhism (alongside DMT it is from the theory of the afterlife in accordance to
Tibetan Buddhism that the story draws its underlying theme which again I will explain later).
Anyway after a little discussion between Oscar and Alex about the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” the two head to the club to drop off the drugs that Victor has requested. Oscar “Enters the Void” (wink wink) where his business associate greets him with a brief tearful apology before the Tokyo police storm the joint and Oscar makes a desperate attempt to flush his stash down the broken toilet in The Voids bathroom before being shot dead for stupidly (and falsely) proclaiming that he is armed. It is at this point where the film really begins and the viewer is treated to a first person view of a bodiless soul travelling through past, present, future, dream and an area for which the title “The Void” has its second meaning … As most of this film happens in between the time a person dies and is reincarnated. Trust me as complicated as that Sounds, it barely brushes the surface of how deep and mind-blowing this piece of cinema actually is, however I will leave the synopsis here as there is a fucking lot going on in this film and instead of explaining it scene by scene I think it would make more sense to begin explaining why this film is amazing.
A picture is worth 1000 words
One of the things that make this film so unique and compelling is the lack of dialogue from Oscar the protagonist. This sounds like a huge drawback but in fact nothing could be further from the truth, the entire film is done from a first person perspective even going as far as to include blinks in the brief part of the film in which Oscar is alive. The fact that Oscar is an almost speechless protagonist means it is extremely easy to project yourself onto the character which makes the film feel very much like a simulator; A fantastic example of this is when Oscar smokes DMT as when he starts to trip it genuinely feels like you the watcher are in fact tripping as opposed to watching somebody living out their trip. As Oscar comes around from his crafty pipe and tries to compose himself in front of a mirror his thought process is audible and as opposed to it being the easy to listen to introspective soliloquy you might expect from this kind of scene, his thoughts are a scrambled mess which are much more reminiscent of the kind of multi-track thinking that in reality occurs to us all. This method of scrambled thought occurs again when Oscar is shot in the bathroom and slowly dies; the resulting effect is that as the viewer you feel like you are in fact experiencing death as opposed to watching somebody die. From this point on you are completely immersed and the character of Oscar becomes less relevant and more about … Well you. Of course there is still narrative that is applicable to Oscar and not you the viewer however it feels like you are experiencing his life (and death) rather than watching it. This is not so much a film as it is a simulation of possibility.
So what is this film really about ?
As I said earlier there are two underlying themes in this film. The first of which is actually
explained briefly at the start of the film. As Oscar and Alex walk to the Void to meet Victor they begin to discuss “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” and it is at this point where Alex in a way underlines the plot of the rest of the film as he explains that, according to Tibetan Buddhism when you die your soul travels through your past, present and future
simultaneously as a voyeur only able to view events before finding a new body to reincarnate into. It is through this medium that the narrative begins to unfold as Oscar travels through his life (usually as himself however there are moments in which his soul will inhabit other characters such as one very odd scene in which he inhabits a character who is fucking his sister). This method of story telling may sound very confusing and if I’m honest its very difficult to explain however trust me everything does make sense and all gaps in the plot are filled in by the end. The constant moving back and forth between time periods merges very smoothly in a method of story telling that I found to be extremely innovative and also effective. It is at this point I will bring up the other underlying theme of the film which to be honest may require a bit of research … or experience.
N,N-Dimethyltryptamine or DMT is mentioned often in the film, and taken by Oscar in the first scene as mentioned earlier. The reason for this is hinted at very briefly but never fully explained; DMT occurs naturally in every living organism from trees to animals and humans. The chemical is released during REM sleep for approximately 30 seconds at a time and this is what causes us to dream. Now if you dont know much about DMT this may not make sense as your dreams feel like they last you for your entire nights sleep however this in fact not the case, DMT holds the power to create a sense of timelessness and if you talk to anybody who has taken this substance they will explain the sensation. A trip from DMT (if smoked) technically lasts for around 15 minutes as your body breaks it down almost instantly, however the trip feels like an eternity. Other than during sleep there is also another time your body releases DMT in huge amounts … When you die. Out of body experiences, reliving and accepting the past, feeling of complete loss of self and impossible colour are the most common effects of DMT. Very much like what Oscar experiences after his death, and also very similar to what is described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Anyway I have gone off on a slight tangent but as I was saying, The sense of timelessness and the way that Oscar’s soul travels through different periods of time is actually shown visually as a directional move. When Oscars spirit floats above Tokyo he will move directionally forward and time will have elapsed (the further he travels the more time will have elapsed). This relates to the school of thought that time is nothing more than a direction which like North and South are not one directional but in fact is a non-linear path that we are only bound to through our physical bodies. An epiphany that many users of DMT experience.This visual method of moving directionally through time both forward and back works brilliantly and though initially it is a little confusing it soon helps to drive the story line perfectly. And if you need more convincing of the relevance of DMT to this film you only need to look as far as the the name of the protagonist Oscar … as in Ayahuasca maybe ?
So … what the fuck is the film actually about ???
The reason Enter the Void is such an original and unique film is that the narrative really does take a back seat in this movie. What I have just explained is only my interpretation of the film. When you watch this (if you haven’t already) watch it with an open mind, there is a story to be told within the narrative of this film … a relatively straight forward one. But this film is about the experience and the way you interpret the things that aren’t mentioned in the story. The reason I took away that Enter the Void was in essence a film about DMT release and the Buddhist Afterlife was because they are subtly mentioned during the dialogue of the film. The reality is that Enter the Void is a simulation of the afterlife and reincarnation, but there’s an infinite amount of interpretations to be taken from it. The Amazing visual effects, combined with Tokyo’s colourful and neon filled architecture means this film is the closest thing you can get visually to an actual trip without chemical inducement. So if your just a stoner who needs a decent treat for the senses that gives you something to rack your brains over, this is everything you need and more. At the same time if you are an appreciator of artistic cinema, or spiritual philosophy this film is like an Alex Grey Installation crossed with a Terrance Mckenna lecture.
A fucking amazing piece of cinema which I rate infinity stars out of eternity.