ENTER THE VOID (2009) Gaspar Noe

2 Mar

This movie has found me. Last weekend a man in a nightclub mentioned it, then a striking image included in a digital magazine drew my eye: a still from the same movie. The neon triggered a memory of seeing the trailer and wanting to watch it. I like life in neon.
The guy in the club didn’t say too much about Enter the Void. The movie ends with the words ‘The Void’ as we’re somehow flung into the underlying plot: the self-analysis of our own lives. Some things are best left unsaid. Dazed and Confused gave a synopsis when including it in their article about mind-fucking films. Once I’d read it, I couldn’t wait to see it.

It’s about an American bloke, Oscar, who lives in Tokyo. He smokes DMT, hallucinates and gets a call to go and meet Victor. He walks to the meeting place – The Void – with his mate Alex. On the way there they talk about The Tibetan Book of the Dead and, ironically, what happens to the soul when a person dies. Almost as soon as Oscar walks into The Void club cops descend upon the place. He runs into the bathroom and tries to stall them. They shoot him. He dies.
The rest of the movie is a transcendental vision from the in-between that recounts childhood moments with his sister Linda, the traumatic death of their parents, the events that led to Victor setting him up to get busted. These flashbacks are interspersed with ariel shots taken from above the city. Through these we follow his sister and how she’s coping with life in the world without him.
It ends with a scene where the omnipresent witness has shifted into his friend Alex’s consciousness, while he is making love to Linda; the camera follows sperm moving towards an egg. Then Linda and the protagonist’s mother merge into one while giving birth. It might be a new incarnation. It might be that life is a loop, one long Vine, playing over and over.
The two most outstanding things about this film are psycho-geographic visuals and the experiential gain of having seen it. If you enjoy hallucinating or enticing epilepsy with bright flashing colours, then this will be your kind of movie, even if the pace is a little slow. If you want to know what union with nirvana is about, then you might prefer to look elsewhere. The greatest failing of the movie is that once Oscar is dead an emotional state less concentrated transfers to the viewer.

The night before I watched Enter the Void, I was wandering around Sanchome in Shinjuku, lost, in awe at the neon signs, appreciating the static and thinking about what an animated, trippy environment it is. It’s the only place in Tokyo where I’ve felt surrounded by that criminality associated with cities in Europe. Even the ghettos are fairly smart. The muggings, pickpockets, prostitution, homelessness and all the other joys of urban life are closer to the surface in this area of Tokyo. Yet this is a part of the city that is very different visually to a European city.
Buildings in Japan have a lot happening on all floors, not just the ground floor, like in London. (There is an elevator law that insists upon installing one if the building is seven floors or above. The result is that a lot of buildings have six floors). It’s not unusual to find a nightclub on the 4th floor surrounded by offices, restaurants, boutiques, apartments and beauticians above and below.
To draw our attention to what is going on higher than street level, there are signs that run all the way up and down the building, indicating what is on each floor. In Shinjuku, in Nichome and Sanchome, these signs – along with shop fronts – are very brightly lit and spaced closely to each other, causing a sensation of stepping inside a fruit machine. Being immersed in so much light, coming from so many different angles, is an experience.
I rented the DVD (downloading is illegal in Japan) from the giant Tsutaya shop on Shibuya Scramble, the busiest road crossing in the world. I asked an assistant to help me look. We searched on the computer and it didn’t come up so I said, “Shinjuku”.
“Ah-ah!” she exclaimed, before darting up the aisle and returning with a copy. Obviously.

The headachey static of Shinjuku is more present in the trailer than it is in the film. Not to worry though, it is very psychedelic, disconnected and ambivalent if you like that sort of thing. Today I have an electric sensation of the film as a memory. Maybe the whole thing is an incarnation recollecting an incarnation? Plus from time to time I’ve thought ‘well at least I’m alive unlike that bloke in that film,’ which was slightly shocking to think of as a lot of the movie doesn’t include him at all. Unless the back of his head – on a journey into nowhere – counts.
If you’re interested in the spiritual side of it, psychoanalytical literature often employs allegory to explore ideas of identity. Unconsciousness: it’s worth getting your fangs into. Enter the Void is a psychoanalytical lucid dream. Possibly, even absurdly, a dream untrue.


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