81. ENTER THE VOID (2009)

“Q: How would you define the film’s genre?
A: Psychedelic Melodrama.”–Gaspar Noé, Enter the Void Cannes pressbook

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Gaspar Noé

FEATURING: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta

PLOT: Oscar is a drug-dealer living in Tokyo with his stripper sister.  One day he is shot and killed during a deal inside a bar called “The Void.”  He spends the rest of the movie as a silent ghost, floating around Tokyo and observing his sister and friends, while simultaneously hallucinating and remembering the details of his life.

Still from Enter the Void

BACKGROUND:

  • Noé wrote preliminary scripts for Enter the Void as early as 1994; the screenplay was consider to expensive to produce until the director’s 2002 success with Irréversible made it appear commercially viable.
  • Star Nathaniel Brown, a non-actor, was chosen because of his physical resemblance to lead Paz de la Huerta and because he was interested in directing.  As someone with no acting ambitions, Noé presumed Brown would not be upset by the fact that his face is only seen once in the film, briefly in a mirror.
  • Visual perfectionist Marc Caro supervised the set designs.
  • The 100 page script indicated the action and described the visual effects, but very little dialogue was scripted; the actors improvised most of their lines.
  • The paintings Alex is shown working on in the film were actually painted by Luis Felipe Noé, the director’s father.
  • The original run time of the film at its Cannes debut was 163 minutes.  Post production and editing continued after this debut, and, as completed in 2010, the final run time of the film (which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2010) as screened in the U.S. is about 140 minutes.  There is a longer version of the film, however, including a 17 minute sequence where Oscar believes he has woken up in the morgue; this segment occupies reel 7 of 9 reels, and for American screenings the film was simply shown with reel 7 omitted.  The extended cut is available on French DVD releases.
  • Noe instructed theaters that the film should be run at 25 frames per second rather than the usual 24 frames (this fact accounts for some of the discrepancies in listed running times).
  • At the Cannes premier there were no opening or closing credits.  The film began on a closeup of the none sign reading “enter” and ended with the words “the void.”
  • Noé got the idea for the film form watching Robert Montgomery’s noir The Lady in the Lake while on a magic mushroom trip.  Like Enter the Void, Lady in the Lake is filmed entirely from a first-person point of view (actually, in Void the POV is usually from about a foot behind Oscar’s head, though at other times we see events through his eyes).
  • Tokyo was chosen as the location of the film partly because Japan’s strong ant-drug laws would make the actions of the police more believable, partly because Noé believed the city, with its abundance of neon, had a “druggy mood.”
  • Pioneering acid guru Timothy Leary used to read “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” to voyagers undergoing LSD trips in an attempt to steer the experience in a spiritual direction.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The opening DMT trip, with it’s multicolored mandalas, floating planetoids, and neon tentacles seems hard to top, but it merely sets the mood.  It’s the pornographic “Love Hotel” scene, with its parade of rutting couples with mystically glowing genitalia, that really impresses itself on the mind’s eye.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: As the most impressive and eye-splintering acid trip movie of the decade (by a wide margin), Enter the Void gets an automatic pass onto the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of All Time. The fact that the protagonist is dead throughout most of the movie doesn’t hurt its chances one bit.  But the clincher, the sure sign that the movie is weird, is the walkouts.  Less than halfway through the screening I saw, the sexagenarian couple who had stumbled into the film by accident (probably thanks to ad copy suggesting the movie was a sentimental ghost story about brotherly love that transcends death) walked out of the theater, leaving me alone with two same-sex couples with facial piercings and hair that glowed in the dark.


Original trailer for Enter the Void

COMMENTSEnter the Void is an exploitation piece masquerading as an art installation, eye-candy masquerading as mind-candy; it has all the reckless visionary enthusiasm and delightful audacity of a Ken Russell picture.  With the opening credits—a series of garish, frequently unreadable stills sprayed at the screen like pop bullets from a machine gun projector, set to a pounding techno score—Gaspar Noé warns us to prepare ourselves to see something different, though we have no idea what.  After quickly introducing the main characters, drug-dealing Oscar (from whose POV the entire film is shot) and his stripper sister Linda, the movie segues into a wordless five minute DMT trip, an abstract rainbow odyssey of swirling, melting mandalas and gently waving tentacles.  Oscar emerges from his drug reverie, still fuzzy-eyed, and the film ever so briefly enters the realm of straightforward narrative as he strolls with a drug buddy through the neon streets of Tokyo towards a fatal rendezvous.  Shot to death in a men’s room, the vast bulk of the movie involves Oscar’s passive postmortem adventures, as he floats around the city observing his former friends in the expatriate community, and especially spying on his beloved sister—including, creepily, watching her real time sexual encounters.  Gradually, flashbacks of his life intrude on his disembodied observations, and the movie’s storytelling becomes even more fragmented and experimental.  Although his memory occasionally slips and merges with hallucination—characters change, as when a young Oscar walks in on his parents having sex, and the man plowing dear old mom suddenly sports the face of his best friend doing sis—attentive viewers won’t have much problem piecing together the backstory, which deals with Oscar’s betrayal as well as the vow he and his sister made as children to always stay together after the death of their parents.  The story is serviceable, and served well by slicing it up into bite-sized tidbits; if the tale had been told straight from beginning to end it would be too bland and familiar to choke down in this quantity.

Paz de la Huerta, who after following her role as the aptly named “Nude” in The Limits of Control with this sexy ecstasy addicted stripper is quickly becoming weird movie fans’ favorite pin-up girl, delivers her melodramatic blowup scenes with great conviction.  Despite portraying the protagonist, amateur Nathaniel Brown seems hardly in the movie; since the audience’s view is through a camera positioned about one foot behind him, we only see the back of his head and hear his voice, and for most of the movie he is a silent ghostly presence.  Neither actor stands the slightest chance of upstaging the apocalyptic neon visuals, which are the film’s obvious reason for existing; the camera is the real star, and thanks to the POV style it actually plays the main character, as well.  The movie is basically two hours of drugs and sex, and of druggy sex—especially in the jaw dropping pornographic finale—and perhaps thirty minutes of recycled hippie spirituality, delivered with arch insincerity. Whether you find the mystical glowing genitalia of the orgiastic climax laughably pretentious or ethereally erotic, you’re not soon likely to erase these sights from your mind.

Visually, Enter the Void is unconditionally stunning, and the movie is best and most honestly enjoyed on a purely sensory level, as the most technically accomplished and accurate documentation of a psychedelic journey ever filmed. The abstract pyrotechnics of the opening trip set up the visual motifs that will recur through the rest of the movie’s voyage: the fluorescent color scheme, the floating perspective, the tunnel vision and sense of being drawn into a circle of light at the center of the field of vision. Every environment in the film is deliberately over-saturated, continually bathed in Tokyo’s neon glow. When Oscar and Alex take a midnight stroll to The Void, the glowing signage makes the night as bright as day, except that the color schemes continually shift from lime to red to peach, depending on which neon font they’re walking past at the moment. Linda’s strip club glows a lustful purple when she’s onstage, changing to a lurid rose for her sex scene. Alex’s friend’s art installations radiate sapphire and ruby jewel tones. The Love Hotel is indigo and orange, with pink and yellow highlights. Even the memory flashback scenes have odd coloration, with unexplained red or golden auras. Every frame of the movie is re-tinted using artificial hues and luminosities. The everyday world is stained in the afterimage of the hallucinatory one; Enter the Void is like staring at a never ending fireworks display.

The floating and tunnel vision motifs first seen in the trip become the primary visual scheme Oscar’s death. Central concepts of the near-death-experience myth are that you become detached from the body and float outside it, and that you die when you “enter the light” at the “end of the tunnel.” Oscar’s astral journey through Tokyo is accomplished through some amazingly long and fluid crane shots; the camera appears to drift through walls, spying on one compartment after another until the camera finds something of interest and swoops in for a closer inspection. The technical mastery of the cinematography here is awe-inspiring; the effect on the viewer is disorientation in space as well as in reality, the feeling of drifting out of one’s own body. Time and time again, at the conclusion of a scene the camera will pick out some circle in the background and dive into it, transitioning into the next vision. We travel into a light bulb on a ceiling, a bullet hole (as in Performance), an ashtray, a burner on a stove top. In each journey we move towards a dot which grows into a tunnel, and when it consumes our field of view we’re treated to strobe effects and mystical abstract visuals that bring that DMT trip back to mind, before we’re spit out into the next scene. The floating into a tunnel motif meets its apex in the penultimate scene, in which we travel inside the human body to into a microscopic world that looks like it has been sculpted by psychedelic substances in a journey into what appears to be a giant planet trailing fuzzy tendrils.

In one form or another, computer-generated imagery was used on almost every frame of the film (if for nothing else but color correction), and Enter the Void is the most artistic use of a technology so far that’s usually employed only to flesh out ranks of troops in battle sequences or to create more “realistic” looking monsters. But although it’s a trippy tour de force and a true brain-bending experience, the film is far from flawless: most obviously, at over two and a half hours it’s way too long for its minimal storyline, even after Noé trimmed 45 minutes (!) from the final theatrical cut.  Although the camerawork impresses, there’s only so much floating through the streets and alleyways of Tokyo that one person can take, several dramatic scenes seem to repeat themselves, and even the brilliant psychedelic sequences would punch harder at a shorter length.

Furthermore, although we’re supposed to root for Oscar and Linda because of their vows of sibling love, and because they have only each other to turn to in a foreign land, it’s hard to sympathize with the suffering of these adult orphans, since they clearly bring their troubles on themselves with their deliberately sleazy life choices. Linda is petulant and vacuous; if she has depths beyond her need to simulate a family with her brother, they’re not explored. We get to know Oscar much better, but almost wish we hadn’t. He seems a bit dull—he’s unable to grasp the concepts in The Book of the Dead, which his brighter friend Alex patiently explains to him for the audience’s benefit—but maybe the problem is that he’s too stoned to concentrate for long enough to grasp simple concepts. At one point he stresses the importance of having goals in life, but demonstrates none himself, except the desire to scarf every drug he can get his hands on and get inside the pants of every attractive woman he sees. His vision of paradise seems to be a hotel where his friends and acquaintances engage in an eternal orgy. He sleeps with a friend’s mom. seduces formerly innocent Japanese girls with cocaine, and introduces his own sister to ecstasy.

Speaking of sis, their entire relationship is tinged with not-so-subtle hints of incest. Oscar is jealous of other men who pay sexual attention to her, and swears if she gets pregnant by her current beau he’ll kill the baby (he appears to get his wish in the unnecessarily gruesome abortion scene, which treats us to the unlikely sight of Linda’s bloody fetus left lying around in an aluminum hospital pan). He watches her strip and give lap dances; he makes love to women who are strippers, like her. He sniffs her g-string. While disembodied, he twice floats into the position of a man who’s making love to Linda, staring into her eyes as her face contorts in passion. For her part, Linda encourages his unnatural passions. When she first arrives in Japan, he takes her out on a “date” and shows her the sights; they ride a roller coaster, and she kisses him on the neck and sucks his earlobe in a very un-sisterly display of emotion. She gets drunk, juts out her breasts and asks, “Have I grown? I look like a woman now?” (Of course, all these events could just be Oscar’s wish fulfillment fantasies as he lays dying). Beyond shock and provocation, it’s not clear what the entire incest subtext/subplot is supposed to add to the film; it doesn’t mesh with the film’s broader themes of illusion, death and rebirth. It certainly highlights Oscar’s emotional and psychological immaturity—he’s unable to separate love from sex in his mind—but it also perverts and detracts from the purity of their sibling pact, which is the only positive trait either of the two principals ever show.

Finally, the insincerity of the story’s stab at spirituality rubs me the wrong way. When I first saw the film I thought that Noé was trying to create an ambiguous milieu; we could choose to believe that Oscar was really going through the process of reincarnation as described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or we could decide it was all his dying hallucination. (Such a structure would be analogous to, though less beautifully executed than, the ambiguous ending of Pan’s Labyrinth). The afterlife of the film seems constructed to illustrate either hypothesis. Further reflection and review, and the director’s own words in multiple interviews, have convinced me that the hallucination angle is the only viable interpretation. DMT, the drug that Oscar smokes at the beginning of the film, is possibly the most powerful psychedelic known to man, and is also produced in trace amounts in mammals (it’s unknown if it has an evolutionary function, or is just a byproduct of some other biochemical reaction). Some scientists have speculated that DMT is dumped into the bloodstream at the time of death, producing the effects reported as “near death experiences.” This speculation is presented in the film as scientific fact by Alex, the film’s wisest and most intelligent character; and as described above, Oscar’s post-expiration hallucinations bear a remarkable similarity to the visions he sees under the influence of the drug: the floating, the tunnel vision, the journey into the light. Oscar’s centerpiece hallucination in the Love Hotel takes place not in the real world, or in a spiritual way station, but inside a model built by one of his artist friends, using a sexual conceit that he himself dreamed up one day; it’s inextricably linked to his particular consciousness, not the Universal Consciousness. The film’s final shot is unexpected and undercuts the reincarnation thesis, while supporting the hallucination/near death experience theory (one explanation, though almost certainly a fallacious one, of the tunnel of light phenomenon in NDEs is that it’s a remembrance of traveling through the birth canal). And, if we needed more proof as to the fact that Oscar simply ceases to be and never gets reincarnated, we need only look to the movie’s title.

Many of the movie’s fans, especially younger ones, have embraced the spiritual explanation of the film; everyone wants to believe in immortality, and the sentimentality of the notion that Oscar would reincarnate to fulfill his pact with his sister is understandably appealing. (Of course, those who embrace this interpretation will probably miss the irony that, according to Buddhism, reincarnation is a punishment, not a reward, and Oscar’s extreme attachment to his sister is the primary cord holding him back from reaching Nirvana). But I have to imagine that the atheistic Noé is secretly laughing up his sleeve at those who buy the spiritual interpretation. It’s hard to escape the nagging feeling that, when it comes down to it, Enter the Void is nothing more than a celebration of the romance of an aimless, amoral drug culture, and the exotic mystical notes it hits are offered only as hypocritical justifications for the hedonism on display.  The movie’s point seems to be: death is the greatest trip of all, and religion is the most awesome of hallucinations.  It’s only moral value is as a cautionary tale: don’t be like Oscar. Enter the Void won’t send most youngsters scurrying off to the library to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, but it might send them scurrying off to the nearest nightclub to pop pills, screw around, and hope that tonight’s the night they get to die young.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Not clever enough to be truly pretentious, Noe’s tiresomely gimmicky film about a low-level Tokyo drug dealer who enjoys one long, last trip after dying proves to be the ne plus ultra of nothing much.”–Rob Nelson, Variety (Cannes screening)

“One hundred proof unfiltered weirdness.”–Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune (contemporaneous)

“…if you yourself are stoked for a lurid, oversexed, stupid-with-Freud Midnight Movie extravaganza – a trip to El Topo via Mulholland Drive – there are worse ways to spend 2 1/2 hours… The film is by turns self-conscious, ludicrous, maddening and yet exhilarating – yes, there’s no getting around it, we can’t keep our eyes off the screen – exhilarating.”–Stephen Cole, The Globe and Mail (Toronto) (contemporaneous)

OFFICIAL SITES:

Enter the Void – impressively designed site with trippy graphics, but it may take a while to load up.  Contains numerous high quality stills and the pressbook (like the rest of the site, in French).

Enter the Void – IFC Entertainment – IFC’s English-language distributor’s page contains more stills and three short expository clips from the film along with the trailer

IMDB LINK: Enter the Void (2009)

OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST:

Cannes Pressbook – The pressbook consists of a long and reveling interview Noé.  In .pdf format.

Anatomy of a Scene: ‘Enter the Void’ – There is no director’s commentary on the Enter the Void DVD, but Gaspar Noé did provide comments for the New York Times for this quiet 2 minute scene with Paz de la Huerta

TribecaFilm.com | Features | Enter the Void: Gaspar Noé – Brief analysis of the film by Zachary Wigon, incorporating quotes from the director

Gaspar Noé’s Trip Into the “Void” – The director discusses the films, and the drugs, that influenced him with IFC

Gaspar Noé Interview: Enter The Void, illegal substances and life after death – Another interview with the loquacious Noé; in this one, he reveals his views on religion

Turn on, Tune in to a Trippy Afterlife – Profile of the director’s career and Enter the Void‘s place in it from The New York Times‘ Dennis Lim

Enter the Void Made by FX – Fxguide’s interview with Geoffrey Niquet, Enter the Void‘s film’s visual effects supervisor

Contemplating a Colorful Afterlife – Technical article on the film’s cinematography from the October 2010 issue of American Cinematographer.  The article begins on page 18.

Suddenly The Maelstrom: Gaspar Noé On The Music Of Enter The Void – Commentary on the film’s soundtrack from The Quietus.

DVD INFO: Like the movie itself, the IFC DVD release (buy) is packed with extras which are high on stylish visuals but low on exposition and insight.  The disc contains about 10 minutes of deleted scenes (none of which would have added much to the film).  The DVD also delivers an overdose of trailers: there’s the French trailer, the wordless “world” trailer, the US trailer, eight teaser trailers (some fairly pornographic), and three unused trailers.  (That’s fourteen separate trailers, not counting the numerous previews for other IFC titles!)  “VFX” is an interesting, but ultimately frustrating featurette that shows some of the films visual effects, but with no commentary or explanation of what we’re seeing.  We see the original scene, and then a wipe reveals what the scene looked like before color correction, or shows a grid overlay that suggests how the creators might have rendered a CGI version of the scene for a particular visual effect (you can imagine how this kind of thing might be necessary when the camera is supposed to “dive” into a pot on a stove and dissolve to the next scene, or to flesh out a model of the Love Hotel).  An explanation of how the effects were achieved would have been welcome; this feature presents itself almost as just another trip sequence.  Speaking of trips, two separate DMT-inspired fractal sequences are included, a five minute lightshow titled “Vortex” and a 2 minute “loop” titled simply “DMT.”  These two segments would work well set to repeat and played as wallpaper at a party.  The title sequence is itself so psychedelic that some super-stoned viewers might fumble the disc into the player and sit there hypnotized at it as it plays endlessly without ever watching the movie.  All in all, its an impressive package, as long as you’re not expecting insight into the thought processes behind the film.

Enter the Void is also available in Blu-ray (buy) with the same features.

True Void devotees with access to Region 2 or multi-region players may want to track down the French DVD/Blu-ray releases instead, which includes the extended cut of the film.

22 thoughts on “81. ENTER THE VOID (2009)”

  1. To facilitate discussion, comments from the prior incarnation of this review have been moved to the updated review.

    1. cassie says

    This is another one that I am surprised to see a good review of. All of the criticisms I want to make give away big spoilers, so I will keep them to myself and just add that one thing I really DID like were the trip scenes in the first 30 minutes. Pretty.
    December 27, 2010, 6:39 pm

    * 366weirdmovies replies

    This is a rather weak “Recommended” from me, actually. I liked the film’s audacity and visuals but I had serious problems with the movie too: it’s way overlong and very pretentious, and lacks any humor. It gets the recommendation because I think most readers here will respond positively to it, and also because I think that to some extent it’s an “event” movie: they just don’t make relatively big budget drug trip movies like this very often anymore.
    December 28, 2010, 11:46 am

    2. LEAVES says

    Negative criticisms only obstruct the reasons that those criticisms are both irrelevant and hilariously misplaced; there is perhaps no film that illustrates this better than Enter the Void. For those that love the film it is a melancholy celebration of life, a visceral dip into the imagination, and contains a formal thoroughness that renders each flickering moment as essential to the film as any moment of any person’s experience (which would make sense, given that it is entirely a depiction of a man’s experience, including one after death (not an experience of the world after death, no, as that would be wholly normal, but an experience of his experience of death, one that is entirely hallucinated and increasingly detached from both memory and the rational, concluding in a deliriously irrational construction of an imagined place). An amazing film. Those that wish to make spurious attacks on it will surely succeed in remaining oblivious to the film’s nuances, a hollow victory if there ever was one.
    December 29, 2010, 6:19 am

    3. Rob/Mofo Rising says

    I loved the inventiveness of this movie. If it were an entire hour shorter, I would probably think it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen. At two and a half hours, with its leisurely pacing, it is a very long experience indeed. Three hours plus would probably be intolerable.

    That being said, I really liked the film. I especially liked that it managed to use explicit sex as a storytelling vehicle. Sex in movies is usually there for titillation value, whether it be bonus bare boobs for b-movies, or high gloss photoshoots for celebrities (which are usually oddly “best bits” free). In “Enter the Void” the sex is an integral part of the story. The movie would not make sense without these explicit scenes.

    In a way, it reminded me of “Taxidermia,” which also used explicit sexuality to tell its story. Like “Taxidermia,” “Enter the Void” is also queasily repulsive. The two main characters, brother and sister, are hopelessly damaged individuals. While the whole intertwined souls theme makes sense in the Tibetan Book of the Dead spirituality the movie sells, it’s pretty disturbing stuff when you bring it back to regular life.

    All in all, I would say this is a very good stab at experimental cinema, with the best “trip” sequence I’ve yet seen filmed. However, it is overlong and indulgent. If the editing had been tighter, this would have been something I would recommend to anybody with the penchant for the bizarre.

    Last note, that Paz de la Huerta seems fearless. One could almost say she is clinically nude for two hours.
    March 1, 2011, 3:00 am

  2. How so, JeanRZEJ?

    From personal experience, I think it would be hard *not* to embrace the Buddhist ethos on psychedelic drugs. The immediate experience is reality-bending and simultaneously egocentric. Easy to embrace the more solipsistic factors of life while in that state.

    I’d be disappointed to find that Noe was playing a trick, since it’s so disingenuous. Not that I would find the film much more intellectually stimulating if he was serious.

    I like the idea of the DMT trip, especially since it came up in the novel “Infinite Jest,” a book I like. But the reported examples of DMT I can find (search Erowid), don’t match the Tibetan death-trip presented in the film.

  3. ‘From personal experience, I think it would be hard *not* to embrace the Buddhist ethos on psychedelic drugs. The immediate experience is reality-bending and simultaneously egocentric. Easy to embrace the more solipsistic factors of life while in that state.’

    I don’t know what this means, since I’m not sure how well versed you are in the actual content of the ‘Buddhist ethos’, but I don’t really see how it’s relevant. A guy told the protagonist a story, he was then shot and had a dream based loosely around what he heard, and the ending completely contradicts the content described earlier. Thus, it is impossible to claim that the film is merely a replication of an actual journey through that described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The divergence at the end emphasizes the difference, and regarding the material and structure of the material which comprised the experience which superficially resembled the experienced described in the book comprises the actual content of substance.

    ‘I’d be disappointed to find that Noe was playing a trick, since it’s so disingenuous. Not that I would find the film much more intellectually stimulating if he was serious.’

    I don’t know what ‘trick’ you’re talking about, so I can’t really say, but it certainly seems like a very honest attempt at replicating a dream-state that resembles but certainly is not an experience described to the protagonist soon before he died. This is how dreams work, after all. The film is more than just a dream, of course, as the dream is only a premise within which Noé selects and arranges material from a life which is a blank canvas.

    ‘I like the idea of the DMT trip, especially since it came up in the novel “Infinite Jest,” a book I like. But the reported examples of DMT I can find (search Erowid), don’t match the Tibetan death-trip presented in the film.’

    When you dream your body releases DMT. It has different effects in your body than when you smoke it. You’ll notice that there is a marked difference between the two experiences in the film, given the premise that the body releases DMT when a person dies. The real question is not, ‘Does the death-trip presented in the film match experiences of people who ingest DMT?’ but ‘Does the death-trip presented in the film resemble (but not match, given the differences in degree) experiences of people who dream?’ To that question, I say – far better than those DMT experiences you will find described in those books or depicted in the film’s earlier trip. At no point in the film is it implied that what is shown on the screen is anything other than Oscar’s experience. At many points the experience resembles the experience recently described to him, but it is not duplicitous and in fact wholly reasonable to expect that a mind’s experience will incorporate recent inputs, in this case the Tibetan Book of the Dead. If a film having a premise is a trick, then this film is tricky, just like every other piece of art ever made. Aside from that, no. If someone feels tricked because a film superficially follows the Tibetan Book of the Dead but all of its meaningful content, that of a real person’s life and the various structural and montage techniques utilized to contextualize that content, then I find their complaint exceedingly peculiar.

    None of this has anything to do with why this writeup is silly, of course. You need only read the concluding paragraphs which hilariously center not on the film but on certain people who fail to think critically about the film and only address it on a superficial level. It’s hilarious because, you know, this review does the same thing. Instead of writing multiple paragraphs lamenting this fact, though, I’d simply actually address the content of the film rather than dismiss its content (and completely fail to address the implications of its coda) – which, of course, I’ve already done. If people are drawn to drugs by showing a dying man’s journey through his own memories and fears, which are far more enthralling and revolting than the rather tame ingested experience depicted, then I’m afraid they’ve simply missed the point. If they kill themselves in order to experience ‘the ultimate trip’, I’m afraid they’ve missed the point, as well (and this review certainly doesn’t help them on this point). If they decide to sleep to dream, then, well, I don’t really think Noé is telling them anything new about how interesting dreams can be. I think it’d be far more interesting to think about the implications of the content selected for the film and the way it is arranged, but that’s just me.

  4. “None of this has anything to do with why this writeup is silly, of course. You need only read the concluding paragraphs which hilariously center not on the film but on certain people who fail to think critically about the film and only address it on a superficial level. It’s hilarious because, you know, this review does the same thing.”

    And so on and so forth. Welcome to the club.

    It could be argued that the discussion of the Tibetan Book of the Dead is just a red herring for Noe’s goof. It’s a valid point, but if you are going to disaccount that, there is no reason for you to swallow the DMT story. The idea of DMT flooding your conscious has no more basis in reality than the idea of the validity of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Both of those are unproven bugaboos for the literary drug-takers.

    As it stands for this particular movie, both DMT and the Tibetan Book of the Dead are provided with inordinate power by being introduced at the very start of the movie. Maybe it is a trick, but it’s one they wanted you to think very seriously about.

  5. this film made a big impression on me. all the time i was watching i didn’t think i t was that good, but i was oddly compelled to keep watching, even after the film basically ends about 20 minutes through! difficult to explain, but i dedicated a piece of music to it… feel free to listen: http://dominicjmarshall.bandcamp.com/ … peace

  6. To put this is the least pseudo-intellectual terms, I really enjoyed this film and it made an impact on me. I really loved the way it unfolded and the sounds and visuals were very awe-inspiring. The yonic/feminine motifs revolving around birth, life, death were intriguing and familiar, but not too trite. It made me think about “the void”, the womb, the vagina in relation to life and their inherent, obvious connections to death. It made me consider things the film didn’t even explore. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t read incredibly deep into it. I never thought it contained some renegade, insightful message, but I understood the imagery’s value. To me, that makes it a worth while film to watch. That being said, I felt the hotel scenes near the ending became gratuitous and I never object to overt sexuality in film as long as it has a purpose. I didn’t understand how it related/was significant to the rest of the film, other than his earlier comments to Alex’s friend/roommate? about the model of Tokyo he had built…Overall, I thought it was a well made, creative film that leaves something to be hoped (although, I’m not sure what) instead of a bleak, dimfest of sadness, which it could have EASILY been.

    1. Sbazz, the “Love Hotel” was pretty much just Oscar’s vision of paradise; screwing for eternity. It was also his last opportunity to bang his sister by proxy. I think what happens afterwards (the conception/rebirth sequence) is more interesting. It may be a reference to Nietzsche’s idea of the Eternal Recurrence, though there’s not much evidence to support the idea that Noe had that in mind as a way to read the movie. What I find interesting is that there is a theory that near-death experiences are actually primal memories of being born. Noe surely encountered that theory during his research.

  7. The “re”birth scene is a false memory of Oscar’s birth. It’s not his soul entering a new born “host body” like I wanted it to be. The entire film is a hallucination or dream caused by the DMT released as he dies, and there is no proof that his “soul” (if it even exists in the film) ever leaves his body.

    Noe said himself that the birth scene is a false memory.

  8. The ‘goal’ that Oscar had was to bring his sister to Tokyo. Also, maybe it was for them to fall in love. It wasn’t that he didn’t have goals. He did. They just weren’t the same goals that people tend to think other people should have. I was looking for a movie exactly like this, I found it, and was greatly impressed. I didn’t think it was too long. It was perfect for the story line.

  9. @G. Smalley: Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence doesn’t have anything to do with individual events or individual lives repeating more or less similarly while the rest of the universe just goes on in different directions. It’s closer to some mystic interpretations of the Big Bounce theory (such as Peter Lynds’s interpretation of the Big Bounce) positing that the universe keeps bouncing in and out in a Big Bang followed by a Big Crunch, and so on and so on, where during the Big Crunch, time and the universe’s entire history will run backwards, and where each universe cycle’s history plays out entirely identical to the previous cycle before the last Big Bounce, where the universe’s entire history plays out identically again and again, alternatingly going forward and backwards.

    Peter Lynds says that his interpretation of the Big Bounce reminiscent of Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence would be “the only known explanation for feelings of deja-vu” because we’ve lived this exact life before during the prior Big Bounce cycle, and for our individual minds it seems like the moment we die, we get reborn, as our individual mind was sorta “switched off” until our rebirth during the next cycle.

    This idea that the entire universe’s history keeps playing out identically again and again is not so much a philosophical concept in Nietzsche’s writings, but more of a personal neurotic fear or obsession, a gruesome intrusive thought that he can’t shake and which could be foreshadowing his collapse into insanity a few years afterwards.

    If you’re looking for any other, particularly religious and philosophical Eternal Recurrence concept rather than Nietzsche’s frightful intrusive thought related to the Big Bounce theory, you should turn to Mircea Eliade.

    1. It’s tough to explain why Enter the Void may incorporate Nieztsche’s Eternal Recurrence without spoiling the film, so anyone who doesn’t want to know the answer should not read on. The last shot of the movie before the title card is of a woman with a baby who looks like Oscar’s mother. Therefore, one possible interpretation is that Oscar was reborn and would experience his life again, repeating the same cycle for all eternity.

      The last shot, of course, is the title card reading “the void” (which I believe Noe chose as the last thing we see to show that Oscar’s deathbed hallucination had ended and that he really ceased to exist and was not, and never had been, a ghost; there is nothing after life but the Void).

      Some people believe Nietzsche literally believed in Eternal Recurrence, I do not. I think it was just his existential metaphor for amor fati. We should live our lives as if each one of our actions would be repeated for all eternity. Presumably if each of us thought this about every choice we made, we would make more positive and wiser decisions.

  10. What you’re describing there is basicly Heidegger’s interpretation of amor fati, informed rather by Kant’s Categorical Imperative than Nietzsche’s intrusive thought.

    In Nietzsche’s own writings, amor fati has nothing to do with Eternal Recurrence, but rather with his social-Darwinistic concept of the Übermensch and his morality of masters. He who lives by his nature and ruthlessly takes what he needs and wants is, in Nietzsche’s view, the Übermensch, living by a morality of masters as opposed to a morality of slaves as he denounces Christianity and all humanitarian compassion with one’s fellow man, and amor fati is acceptance of one’s nature as a conqueror.

    In fact, the very quote about amor fati lifted from “Ecce homo” mostly used to support Heidegger’s Kantian interpretation appears nowhere near Nietzsche’s thoughts on Eternal Reccurence, but in a chapter Nietzsche dedicates to his own greatness and how his being a great man makes him lonely. The quote in context makes it clear that he talks of amor fati as himself accepting that he is so great and lonely, and that he “shall never waver in accepting this fact as true” , which could be where casual reading could mistakenly construe any relation to an eternity (“never in all eternity”), but definitely not Eternal Reccurrence. Another occurence of the term in “The Gay Science” suggests that it mainly means to be realistic in one’s judgment, rather than idealizing or demonizing things when looking at them.

    There is absolutely no moral value attached to Nietzsche’s intrusive thought of Eternal Recurrence, as falsely construed by Heidegger. It’s an irrational hallucination and horror potentially of psychotic or schizophrenic origin that’s increasingly tormenting Nietzsche during his insanity’s slow onset, not because of any moral obligation it places on him, but simply because of the maddening, terrifying vastness of inimaginable infinity swallowing him up.

    A similar condition was experienced by Georg Cantor, the creator of mathematical set theory. When once told by a guest at a dinner party that they imagined Cantor’s sets as piles of things, Cantor confessed that in his mind, sets were darkly disturbing, terrifying abysses that were haunting him in his sleep. He also wrote that he conceived of the infinite set of all sets as God, and that he thought that God had directly communicated set theory specifically to him as the chosen one.

    Similar to Nietzsche, Cantor’s mental demons in the form of tormenting intrusive thoughts of infinity, just as well combined with illusions of self-aggrandizing grandeur, eventually brought him into a mental institution for the rest of his life, where he was usually either catatonic or physically attacking people like a ferocious animal. One of his admirers who’d only known his books was shocked when he found his hero like that in real life.

    1. We’re getting both off-topic and beyond my pay grade. The Eternal Recurrence interpretation of the film is speculative. Here is the relevant section of Nietzsche on the Eternal Recurrence in “The Gay Science” (I don’t think it makes a significant appearance anywhere else).

      “The greatest weight. — What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence — even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!” Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine”? If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are, or perhaps crush you.”

      I read that as having a metaphorical meaning, especially as this is approximately from the “Zarathustra” period when Nietzsche has become interested in creating new myths for men to live by, because he believes that Christianity has lost its ability to persuade us. He could have believed it literally, however, and still imbued it with the metaphorical meaning it seems to have in that passage. Which attitude to the demon’s proposal should we take?

      But in regards to the movie, it doesn’t exactly matter what Nietzsche’s actual belief was, only what Noe thinks of the idea, if he purposefully referenced it.

  11. Yes, I know the quote from “The Gay Science”. I think it’s mainly an obsessive, intrusive nightmare or vision that Nietzsche is describing there, of basically his worst fear coming true. For others, it would be spiders, body snatchers, xenomorphs, or great heights, for Nietzsche it was being swallowed by infinity.

  12. “into what appears to be a giant planet trailing fuzzy tendrils.”

    Oh sure, I remember that. Don’t you? Though technically those were the first parts of me, the egg and the “tendril” that got in. Which I guess is the point, you have to see this entirely in Buddhist terms for it to work at all, and leave out all of the impressive sounding philosophy in previous comments on this review.
    For instance, there is no “me” and I’m already in the void, as is the protagonist of ETV though illusions of identity obscure the fact. The title of the movie does, too.

    There is absolutely no point in debating whether it is real or subjective “wish fulfillment”. Look at that term: desire is the whole problem in Buddhism. His karma, or circumstances, will be the result of his attachments whether in a dream or physical. It’s therefore also pointless to see the DMT smoking at the beginning as anything other than the movie’s in-story excuse to take you through the different “bardos” or planes of the Book of the Dead.
    Similarly if he becomes his sister’s child (comes in her, to paraphrase) in his own projected consciousness or in her world, the chain of events will play out the same for both of them. Again, identity being an illusion to Buddhists, who can say which Paz is more real? It’s like the paradox of teleportation in which someone is “transported” by getting disintegrated here and reassembled there: such a person simultaneously is and isn’t the same person, afterward. What’s moved is only information and not their atoms, which are always in flux, joining and leaving their bodies constantly as waste, food, breath, etc.

    I think most drug movies can be described by your words, re eye candy and not brain candy, though I have to say I really liked this. It went all out, with lots of little touches like the dealer taking on the mantle of God of Death in one scene and the graffiti beside him changing between glances from the camera.

    I’m grateful for your review of “Jacob’s Ladder” because I always felt that like Patrick MacGoohan’s “The Prisoner,” it was a sort of Buddhist allegory, though until today I had never read anything to suggest that was intentional in either case, and of course the former is dressed up with Meister Eckhart.

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