Enter The Void / Soudain Le Vide (2009)

Soudain Le Vide

Coursing through Tokyo’s veins by night, Gaspar Noé’s Enter The Void is a psychotropic feast for the senses.

Enter The Void

Tripping The Light Fantastic by Mark Wilshin

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

I like the fact I’m starting this blog with Gaspar Noé’s film Soudain Le Vide. It’s the first film I saw in this year’s London Film Festival, but also vaguely appropriate as a cautionary tale, a caveat spectator on the dangers of being seduced by the all-too-glimmering lights of the cinema.

It’s undeniable there’s something hallucinatory about the visual opulence of Gaspar Noé’s latest film Enter The Void. Gunned down by the rat-a-tat titles, mesmerised by the bright white light and its kaleidoscopic illuminations, this film is like a mini death. In the same way a French orgasm once was. While Noe’s previous film Irréversible was like a flickbook in reverse, retrofitting the horrors that occur back to a time of peace, Enter The Void is a dark miasma of altered consciousnesses, in a similar movement from death back to life.

We enter the film, “Enter Here”, staring out from the wide, dilated eyes of American junkie Oscar, living in Tokyo, and as we later find out, tripping. When he blinks, the camera blinks. When he tokes, we follow, floating through undulating molecular patterns and beautifully fluid organic constellations.  After an altercation in a bar, when Oscar’s lights finally go out, we enter another consciousness, an outer-body life force, floating above the plane of existence, unblinking witness to the aftermath of his death. Then, through the light in his stripper sister Linda’s dressing room, we head into his memory, where the camera remains fixedly behind Oscar, following him through every reminiscence, from bathtimes with mother to the moment of death.

And beyond.

Within this movement however, there are also segments of imagination and dream, as Noe pokes through the different realms of conscious, unconscious and subconscious being.  Beyond is chaos, the final crescendo in which Oscar is barely glimpsed, a procreative spirit gliding over lives once loved, now lost. There are contradictions; Oscar’s corpse resurrects, Oscar’s ashes are unceremoniously flushed down the sink, Oscar is unborn, reborn or just tripping. Time and causality implode. Enter the void, the Tibetan Book of The Dead’s bardo.

Until finally, wending round the Love Hotel, the spirit enters the bodies of others, maybe even their minds, finally culminating in his own conception. Perhaps. It’s a fluid orgasma of consciousness.

But I come to. Coitus interruptus. My senses OD’d, my mind sober.

No longer suckled by the hallucinogenic nipple, I am hard to the advertising-promo chic, this Matrix-style flirtation with philosophy. Do I care about these people? Does Noé even care? And then it hits me. Like an articulated truck. I’m just a doped up viewer in his floating world, and it’s impossible to engage. It’s a bad comedown. I’m surrounded by flat, unlikable style victims. Their conversations – sometimes shocking, yet still banal. No-one’s pulling my heart strings. And yet, Noe seems frustrated at the untimely death of his emotionless fantasia. He attempts to resuscitate the dying dream with violent electroshocks of horrific crashes and gorno/porno frissons of aborted foetuses and graphic sex.

It’s a sordid, sickly, sticky adventure. But, like the fluorescent cityscapes of Tokyo By Night, a luminescent, oneiric trip, in which one can happily partake, if only to gaze into the glimmering void. It’s certainly an oblivion that I won’t forget any time soon.

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