Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void” makes you the main character

[From The Montreal Mirror; the film’s impressive UK web site is here]

COVER: Eyes wide open

Gaspar Noé on Enter the Void, his neon-coloured psychosexual journey through Tokyo and the afterlife.

by Mark Slutsky
October 14, 2010

A lot of movies put you in the lead characters’ shoes. But few directors have the audacity to do what Gaspar Noé set out to accomplish with his new film, Enter the Void. This is a movie that basically makes you, the viewer, the main character. For the first half-hour or so, the protagonist Oscar (played—kinda—by Nathaniel Brown) is seen entirely from behind, from a van­tage point floating somewhere behind his head. (The only time you see his face is when he passes a mirror.)

Oscar is a party kid living in Tokyo. He lives in a small apartment, dabbles in some light drug dealing on the side and hangs out with his slightly crazy, foxy sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta). It’s no spoiler to say that shortly into the film’s running time, Oscar is shot and presumably killed. But he’s still the main character. The camera itself, incarnating his spirit or soul or whatever you want to call it, emerges from his crumpled body and embarks on a neon-coloured, frenetic, psychosexual journey towards Oscar’s final reward, weaving in and out of the past (the flashback scenes were shot in Montreal), the present and some sort of hallucinatory fantasy, often floating above the characters and sets in a sort of soul’s-eye-view. We’re not watching Oscar anymore. We are Oscar.

It’s a trick that’s been tried before, but not often; most notably in Robert Montgomery’s stilted but intriguing 1947 Raymond Chandler adaptation The Lady in the Lake. “The best POV I’ve seen besides Lady in the Lake was of course Strange Days,” says Noé, speaking to the Mirror in a hotel suite at the Toronto International Film Festival the day after the film’s premiere. Visi­bly, and I’ll be honest, olfactorily hungover, he’s referring to the 1995 Kathryn Bigelow sci-fi film that featured virtual-reality snuff films as a plot point. “And more recently there was a music video by Prodigy, ‘Smack My Bitch Up,’ that was kind of funny.”

Noé has strong feelings about his film’s rather extreme perspective. “Shooting from an abstract point of view, exterior to the main character, is totally artificial. It would make more sense if you were always shooting from the main character’s POV and not from the outside. Editing, cutting space into different POVs doesn’t make sense!”


The movie announces its aesthetic intentions from the very first frame: Enter the Void’s title sequence compresses all of the film’s credits into one blindingly colourful, hypnotic minute. Each credit gets its own font and style, meant to mimic the look of neon Tokyo street signs; scored by techno legend Thomas Bangalter, they flash by at the rate of about one every half-second and are almost a mini-movie unto themselves (you can watch the sequence online by searching “Enter the Void titles”). “I think that maybe people are going to buy the DVD just to read the credits in slow motion!” Noé laughs.

Paz de la Huerta, on TV now in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, delivers the film’s standout performance as the main character’s bereaved sister/possible object of desire. “She’s perfect for the role,” Noé says. “Her craziness was perfect for the movie. I was very lucky to meet her.” Her challenge as an actor is a unique one; in many scenes, due to the unique nature of the movie, she’s called on to interact directly with the camera itself, as well as expose herself completely, in all senses of the word. “She was very free,” Noé says. “I think she cries a lot in real life. We need­ed someone who was hyper-emotional to do such scenes. Also it makes sense because, in the movie, the girl is traumatized. It’s not just that I wanted that in the movie, but it makes sense with the character that she’s breaking down all the time.” (As if on cue, Noé’s cellphone rings. It’s de la Huerta; I can hear her asking him “Gaspar, do you have any painkillers?”)

With Enter the Void, Noé has created a film that defies comparison. “Sometimes you just make movies that you wish someone else had done,” he says. “But because no one else had done it, you do them yourself!”

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