Dumbfounded, awe-struck and annoyed, the viewer of Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void (2009) is constantly dared not to admire the film’s bold concept and stupefying ambition. The director most openly infatuated with the idea of turning the subliminal into the sublime, unleashes his stroboscope-throbbing ego to a degree that’s both embarrassing and commands respect. His interests never less than elemental, Noé didn’t have many stops left for pulling out after the father-daughter incest of I Stand Alone (1998) and the Irreversible (2002) rape scene. Enter the Void concludes his trilogy of culturally forbidden sex, adding a brother-sister semi-incestuous relationship to the collection.
The movie, quite hefty at its 154 minutes, is separated into a series of sequences that are fairly linear, with one clearly indicated big flashback and one dream sequence. It’s shot almost entirely from the point of view of the main character, and for the most part from the p.o.v. of his soul, floating around Tokyo after it escaped the killed body of the protagonist. That results in a whole lot of overhead shots that make the hotel scene from DePalma’s Snake Eyes (1998) look like TV hack job.
That compels the actors to deliver physically difficult performances, almost devoid of any chance for facial expressions caught in close-ups. After the sensual assault of the opening credits (which happen to be the end credits as well) is over, the film takes on a steady – if occasionally grueling – pace, sometimes broken by a violent visual or sonic slap, delivered mostly for visceral kicks.
It wasn’t until the famed shot of an erect penis thrusting at the camera and releasing a flow of CGI-semen (which quite literally brings our hero back to life), that some members of the Wrocławian audience walked out. In fact, this is the gentlest and most heartfelt scene in the movie. Earlier on, we see the woman character placing her positive pregnancy test on top of the cover of “The Tibetan Book of Dying”, which harkens back to Monica Bellucci’s joyous pee in the finale (?) of Irreversible, when the news of the baby coming was deemed ominous by the 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) poster hovering above her.
This post mortem odyssey – not entirely unlike The Lovely Bones (2009) in its premise – is as ridiculous and moving as the huge fluorescent “Love Hotel” in the final sequence: an establishment where the penises and vaginas glow in the dark and life itself is actually created: all caught in the relentless, insane swirl of Noé’s floating camera.