directed by Gaspar Noé
Just after the moment of CGI conception, when the screen went dark, a voice in front of me in the auditorium whispered “Thank Christ.” Soon after, a collective groan emanated from the crowd as the screen came back to life and Gaspar Noé’s newest endurance test, Enter the Void, continued for what seemed like a small eternity.
I’m not sure why Noé feels compelled to so severely test his audience, but anyone interested in seeing his films need to be forewarned: You will need to steel yourself, and you need to realize that Noé’s filmic eye never flinches. Ever. Enter the Void demanded of me and, apparently, the audience, the maximum possible amount of effort to stay focused, so much so that when I emerged from the theater and into the brisk night air, I felt like a political prisoner back on native soil for the first time in a long time. Hypnotic at times, truly horrific at others, the same phrase rings true for Void and Noé’s other bruiser, Irreversible. Too much, too much, too much. I saw a lot of potential in Irreversible when it came out 8 years ago, but what I observed as undisciplined in Irreversible, I realize now is simply indulgence on Noé’s part. The reason for that collective groan is due to Noé’s biggest misstep, his refusal to edit himself in terms of storytelling, and camerawork, and that makes his films so hard to bear. I’m all for creative license and showing us something new, but you have to think a little about your audience, Mr. N. Add to the fact that the vocal work of Nathaniel Brown, whose face we rarely see in the film and so have to rely on his voice to fill in the gaps, is sub-par, flat and only emotive in the most abstract sense. The actors we can see don't fare much better, except for a few inspired moments from Paz de la Huerta and Olly Alexander.
My brother asked me how the film was, and I told him I wished I had a film version of a mine canary that I could send before me into movies like this, just like old school miners used to do to determined the toxicity of the air. If such a thing existed, the poor little guy would surely have been a corpse after this 2 and a half hour filmic waterboarding.
To Mr. Noé’s credit, however, I will say that the high points of this film are nigh untouchable, such perfection that I had a hard time getting my brain around it until after the fact. Hell, even if you buy a ticket and simply watch the best opening credit sequence (which play in its blistering entirety before the film begins) I have witnessed in years, you will get more than your money’s worth.
Funny aside: For those of you who will refuse to heed my advice and will go to see this film anyway, think about the young man one row in front of me. He arrived a little after I did, during the trailers, with 2 women and another man. When the film ended and the lights came up, the young man said aloud that, of all the films he could have brought his mother, his sister and his sister’s boyfriend to see, he sure was glad it this one. Thanks, Gaspar!