A wise man once said, “don’t try and blind your audience with the opening credits,” and director Gaspar Noé has not heard such an important quip before. His erratic introduction, fast-paced and fluid, set the scene better than any established character could. With schizophrenic titles and an unflinching desire to take his audience on a journey through pot problems, Enter the Void is a slow-burner with fast pacing. It is the uncontrollable mind of a fantasist. That is the bearer of good and bad news, though. There needs to be control for Enter the Void to work, because while its narrative flairs and passion are clear, so too are its faults and intricate annoyances.
It is the mixed bag of film I have come to love and hate. A man is killed in a drugs bust gone bad, but that is not of importance. He is dead, and he travels through time looking at where life was, is and will be not that he is gone. Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is weak, boring and bland, but there is a point in not giving him much to do or say or even think. Enter the Void is not so much a film wanting to depict character, but feeling. How does it feel to be deceased? Lots of flashing lights that are a pain to watch. Agreeable, but not interesting. He takes us through seedy scenarios. Bad people do bad things. The unfortunate are manipulated, the camera pans above them as they are unable to remove themself from this bad scenario.
Usually, there is commentary, in Enter the Void, it is presented as a fact of life. These moments happen. Is the reason behind it important? Not necessarily, but to a narrative, it certainly can be. It is a tool that Noé shies away from, and instead, he wishes to develop fluid and fancy camera angles, crane shots that depict the seedy and scummy members of the world. He engages with characters immediately following the death of Oscar, but also years into the past and future of the world. Noé brings some extraordinary visual styles and an ability to capture the horrid underbelly of Tokyo, but where is the reasoning for it? Noé has all the components needed to talk on the topics he presents but is too busy crafting a film that seeks to satiate his desires as an innovator, rather than that of an artist. He has flair and visual strengths, but his narrative chops could use some work and his interpretations of messages and social standings leave much to be desired. It is frustratingly open and simplistic, but simplistic enough to allow convoluted meanings to flow through. It is an intricate and strange piece, to say the least.
His characters, apparently, are scared of death. They talk in such banal and expressionless manners that it is hard to coax anything real out of either the performance or, by extension, Noé’s direction. What he lacks in dedication, he makes up for in vibrant visuals. They are sickening and uncoordinated, and there is a beauty to that styling. Still, winners don’t use drugs. Had Ronald Reagan not lost the war on drugs, we would not have the flooding vibrancy of Enter the Void. We would not have the textures that blend into the fabric of reality. They do look creative, but I am unmoved by their appearance and sceptical of their point. Still, it is a good trip to take, because Enter the Void does indeed enter that void of which these characters apparently fear, and it is happy to stay there, revelling in the regrets and rewards synonymous with those that are checking out of the living world.