Mar 17, 2010

Are You Ready To "Enter The Void?"

I tend to not write reviews of movies because I never felt like I really offered much insight, and they're usually not relevant. However, Enter The Void and Gasper Noe I feel are worth the effort (and it could be a good while before this movie gets a wide release; I wasn't even expecting to be able to see it at SXSW).

There are two types of film-goers: those who "understand" David Lynch, and those who don't. Those who don't understand David Lynch expect that his films are possible to be "understood." The films can be understood, and there is a story you can follow, but that's not the point. If you wait for an explanation, you'll get frustrated. If you want a reason why the characters are going where they're going, you'll get confused. If you try to predict where the story's going, you'll be disappointed and angry. But if you just watch the movie, absorb the visuals and sound, and let the film take you where it takes you, it'll be an amazing, moving experience. Gasper Noe accomplishes the exact same thing.

Irreversible, Noe's previous film released in 2002, is like experiencing a car crash: you've either had one or haven't, and it's something'll never forget. In fact most wish they hadn't gone through it at all. It's a brutal, violent, disturbing, hideous film, and absolutely unforgettable. And that's why it stands to me as one of the absolute greatest films I've ever seen: it was unlike anything I had seen before or since. People have blasted the film as excessive, indulgent, homophobic, arrogant and desperate, and they're not wrong. But for the audience that just lets go and lets the film move forward, they understand the experience the film takes them.

Enter The Void is the same way. In fact, driving home last night I realized the similarities between the two films. Clearly they were by the same director, but Void carried with it so much more maturity and definition, and was trying to take you to a different place than Irreversible.

I won't say much about the film, but it follows the story of Oscar, a small-time drug dealer in Tokyo who's struggling to stay close to his sister Linda, now a stripper, after they were separated by foster care. Like Irreversible, the camera has no horizon line whatsoever; you know the phrase, "fly on the wall?" Imagine the camera is a fly that's been given LSD and DMT (the drug of choice for this film), and gets a new fix every 15 minutes. In fact that's something very different, and I felt more "mature," than Irreversible: taking place in Tokyo and having frequent scenes of drug use, the film was incredibly lush with color, lights, and shapes, and even long scenes of all-out CG visualizations like something out of Electric Sheep. Once again Thomas Bangalter has done the sound composition, which drifts between "score" and "ambiance" on its own terms.

My initial thought stepping out of the film was about how this film and Noe as a director so magnificently creates exactly what films need to be: an experience unlike anything else you normally experience. A thought went through my head about how Avatar tried to accomplish a lot of the same thing: an immersive experience unlike anything you've seen before and what completely envelopes you in picture, sound and emotion. I liked Avatar but there really wasn't much you couldn't expect. What I loved so much about the sound composition alone in Irreversible was how it was not your THX-certified 7.2 Dolby Surround whatever, it was a creation that drove the narrative; every film ever made lets the picture drive the story, Irreversible let the sound drive the picture. And a lot like Lynch's Inland Empire, so much time is spent to draw you into a controlled emotional state that you just can't help but be carried to wherever the film takes you (Audition tries the same feat, but I personally didn't find it as effective as most other people).

Again, I'd like to avoid giving away as much as possible and let you experience the film for yourself. In a word, I'd recommend those who have not yet seen Irreversible to see Void first as their baramoter for Noe: if you can survive this film, you can survive the other. For those who have seen Irreversible, you've already decided whether or not you'll see Enter The Void.