Enter the Void


Director: Gaspar Noé
Written by: Gaspar Noé, Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander

Year / Country: 2009, France / Germany / Italy / Canada / Japan
Running Time: 161 mins.

Death is the greatest drug!

Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void is hypnotic from the trippy credits onwards. The entire film is shot from the perspective of the heavy drug user and dealer Oscar who dies fifteen minutes into the movie. He gets shot during a police raid in a Tokyo bar called ‘the Void’ when he locked himself in the toilet trying to flush his stash of gear.

Oscar, who was just reading ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ which he borrowed from his friend Alex, sees his own dead body on the restroom floor and it feels like a genuine death experience. The rest of the film follows Oscar’s consciousness point-of-view that keeps hovering above people he used to be close to, seeing psychedelic images, or just strangers and old friends having sex. He also re-experiences scenes from his own life from an outside perspective. Oscar is no longer burdened by the restraints of a physical body or the flow of time. Philosophically, the laws of cause and effect are one of the main themes of the film.

His main memory is the car crash that killed his parents and left him and his sister traumatized orphans. They ended up in Tokyo where she became a stripper and he became a dealer and user. Oscar observes the aftermath of his death which includes police interrogations, dramatic arguments between his old friends, and lives going seriously off the rails. Watching the human tragedy play out from an eagle eye perspective is playful and refreshing. (Spoiler: It ends with Oscar’s soul reincarnating as a baby).

Noé’s dream project is a successful experimental film with a number of powerful scenes and some stunning visuals. The film’s main problem is that it is more than two and a half hours long! For an experimental movie that is a major sin. But Noé is all about trying new things. Unfortunately, the film became a major flop (not even a million gross worldwide versus a sixteen million dollar budget according to IMDb). Still these beautiful crane shots of neon-lit Tokyo were worth every buck. With some proper editing, this could have been a masterpiece.

Another downside is that Enter the Void is mostly a visual experience. The electronic pop helps to create the unique atmosphere, but there are no thoughts by Oscar after he is killed or other sensations. Therefore, I hope that monsieur Noé will one day create a virtual reality project of his vision. About his elaborate view on death two notions stick. One, dying ain’t so bad. And two, voiced by Oscar in a discussion with Alex about the ‘The Book of the Dead’ on their way to the club is; are we really gonna be stuck forever on this shit hole of a planet?

Rating:

Biography: Gaspar Noé (1963, Buenos Aires) is an Argentine-born French film director. Noé spent his childhood in Buenos Aires and New York before moving to France with his parents at the age of 12. He studied philosophy and film studies at the École Louis-Lumière in Paris. After this he initially started working as First Assistant Director before becoming a director himself. In 1992 he made his breakthrough as a director with his short film Carne. Noé mainly focuses on short films. Stanley Kubrick’s films in particular serve as inspiration for him. Well known feature length films he directed are the controversial Irreversible and Enter the Void. Noé is married to filmmaker Lucile Hadzihalilovic. She is credited as co-writer for his movie Enter the Void from 2009.

Filmography (a selection): Carne (1991, short) / I Stand Alone (1998) / Sodomites (1998, short), Irréversible (2002), Intoxication (2002, short), Eva (2005, short), Destricted (2006, segment: We Fuck Alone), SIDA (2006, short), Enter the Void (2009), 42 One Dream Rush (2010, short), Love (2015), Climax (2018), Lvx Æterna (2019), Vortex (2021)

Double Bill #03: The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Forget all the sequels for a minute, and consider the first two The Terminator movies as a diptych. As a diptych, they work perfectly. The first one is a hyper tense thriller, the second one a sensational action movie. The major downside of The Terminator movies, I always thought, is that you have to accept an extremely unlikely plot point. We’re supposed to buy that in the future, the resistance somehow found out about the machines’ new time travel capabilities, and destroyed their one and only time machine after they used it for the very first time. Not only that, the resistance also managed to send through one of their own soldiers before they blew it up. Since the humans are shown to be pretty much cannon fodder in their own environment, how would they be able to penetrate the machines’ base of operations? Anyway, this plot device was necessary to get a futuristic killer robot into the present to stalk the Conners (Sarah in the first, John in the second). Once you accept this unlikely scenario, the execution of both movies is pretty much perfect. In the first Terminator, Schwarz is truly scary as the ultimate hunter-killer. A great move by writer-director James Cameron is that Arnie’s T-800 joins the good team in part 2, but it is now technologically outdated. The new and improved terminator – the T-1000 – is perhaps the coolest non-human character ever created for a film. These movies have inspired countless others with their stories and special effects. The Matrix would never have happened if it wasn’t for these terminators. With more than a whiff of philosophy (“it is in your nature to destroy yourselves”), the two The Terminator movies also deliver deeper, underlying messages apart from just giving us the spectacle. Although there is more than enough from that. In T2, it even goes on pretty much non-stop. You could consider that another downside or just as a realistic screenplay measure following the unlikely time travel plot. After all, once you have a killer like the T-1000 on your tail, a non-stop rollercoaster is what you would get.

Double Bill #02: Grindhouse (Planet Terror & Death Proof)

This was the first time I saw the Rodriguez / Tarantino double feature as it was originally intended: back to back and with fake trailers in between. Originally, I saw the films separately when they came out in 2007 in an open air cinema on Crete. This was a special experience in itself and I really liked the movies. So what is the real authentic Grindhouse experience like? Well, what do you think? It kicks complete ass! It starts with the Machete trailer, which is so good they decided to actually make the movie. Then the first feature Planet Terror opens with that pole dancing sequence, the sexiest ever committed to celluloid. Rose McGowan is amazing as Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer who’ll soon have a machine gun for a leg. Rodriguez’ his contribution is a bat shit crazy gory virus zombie splatterpiece, while the Tarantino film that follows is… well a masterful genre film (in this case a carsploitation-horror), like only the maestro knows how to make them. What’s beautiful is that the films actually go together like burgers and fries. Tarantino-Rodriguez is a unique partnership in the history of filmmaking and this is a once-in-a-lifetime project. The two films have a lot in common. Apart from the shared cast members, they feature lots of lethal ladies; girls who kick ass, though they also suffer a lot. The guys in the movies are mostly psychos. And one of them is unforgettable: Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike McKay. Another Tarantino-character made for the cinema wax museum. The Grindhouse versions of the films are cut a little shorter than the films released separately. Death Proof now also has a missing reel. Not coincidentally, it is the lap dance scene that is missing (Tarantino and Rodriquez are suggesting that a horny projectionist stole the reels, in Planet Terror a sex scene between Cherry and Wray is missing). Also, included in all gory glory are the fake movie trailers: Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS, Edgar Wright’s Thanksgiving and Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. O man, cult cinema just doesn’t come any better than this.

Dungeon Classics #25: RoboCop 2

FilmDungeon’s Chief Editor JK sorts through the Dungeon’s DVD-collection to look for old cult favorites….

RoboCop 2 (1990, USA)

Director: Irvin Kershner
Cast: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Belinda Bauer, Tom Noonan
Running Time: 117 mins.

Irvin Kershner is a director who is good in dark sequels that feature tormented cyborgs, he proved with The Empire Strikes Back (1980). RoboCop 2 doesn’t quite approach that extremely high level, but it also didn’t deserve the harsh criticism it received. Peter Weller is excellent once again as the human-machine cop who’s dealing with remnants of his former life. The events take place shortly after the first film and crime in Detroit has gotten even worse. RoboCop has to single handedly end a drug epidemic as the cops go on strike for being squeezed out by evil corporation OCP. The script of this movie was written by Frank Miller (Sin City), so that adds to the darkness. It is too sadistic at times, but seeing RoboCop in action with his tough-as-nails human partner Lewis (Nancy Allen) is as thrilling as it was three years earlier. And although the special effects are pretty outdated (check out the Apple-interface on cyborg Caine!) the movie, with all its apocalyptic Detroit factory settings, still looks good.