“Q: How would you define the film’s genre?
A: Psychedelic Melodrama.”–Gaspar Noé, Enter the Void Cannes pressbook
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.
- 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
COMMENTS: Enter the Void is an exploitation piece masquerading as an art installation, Continue reading 81. ENTER THE VOID (2009)