Sunday, December 5, 2010

Enter the Void

Thursday, December 2, 2010 08:29 PM

Not being able to sleep can make me crazier than I already am.  I used to feel trapped by my  thoughts, imprisoned in my head.  And there be monsters in there.  Watching movies has been helpful at escaping, and writing has been even more effective.    Recently, I found myself thinking, “What better film to view in the predawn morning than Gaspar Noe's latest film, Enter the Void?"  I had been hearing about this movie that seemed to be more of a psychedelic journey than anything else for over a year and had been looking forward to watching it.

To say the movie is visually stunning is an understatement-it is amazingly trippy. Tokyo turns into a neon glowing fantasy world.  The line between what was shot with camera and what was computer generated graphics is so thin that the viewer is constantly off guard, trying to keep up with the sifting and changing scenery.

Oscar's hallucination
The story is told from the point of view of Oscar, a young American living in Tokyo with Linda, his sister. For most of the movie, the camera acts as his eyes, complete with blinking. He spends most of the film under the influence of powerful hallucinogens.  The sequence where he smokes DMT, a powerful hallucinogen,  is beautiful and eerie . The colors, shapes and lights swirl hypnotically, creating a constantly changing womb like galaxy.

Oscar needs to pull himself back when the phone rings, leaving little, dancing sparkles flitting about his periphery. That brought back some memories! After watching something transform into something new, then having to focus, there would often be little remainders of the dancing transformations, tendrils of light rising off the corners of a mouth, concentric lines like the age rings of a tree around their faces, still objects come to life as they breathed, growing and shrinking.  Colors would be brighter and the air would filled with glowing embers. A good computer generated approximation is the Electric Sheep Screensaver.

Oscar goes into the night
The night turns into a
 glowing, fantasy land
As Oscar and his friend, Alex go out later that night, Alex explains what happens to the soul after death, according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The dead rise up like ghosts and can see and hear what goes on in this plane of existence, but are unable to interact with it. Then they relive their lives, and can either move on the a higher level, or if they are too attached to move on, they stay here watching until eventually being reincarnated.

Alex's summation is useful for the viewer in understanding what happens in the rest of the movie. Oscar and the viewer go on that journey; we both look down on his memories and the present, stirred together in a confusing mixture. Oscar watches how his friends and sister struggle with the impact of his death from his ceiling vantage point, passing through walls and across the night sky. Occasionally he floats down, closely observing their lives. Sometimes what he witnesses is real, sometimes surreal. At one point, his soul travels through a Love Motel and observes the couples having sex. Phallic shaped glow sticks replace men's penises, and white, ectoplasmic smoke drifts out of the women's genitals.

In a memory, Oscar and Linda walk
through an already psychedelic Tokyo night
Always bewildering and maze like, Enter the Void is occasionally difficult watch. Linda spends so much of the film in hysterics that I found myself rooting for the sleeping pills when she attempted suicide.

Sometimes the best thing to be said about a movie is the illusion of motion, produced by a rapidly projected series of still images and that is certainly true with Enter the Void. I found myself completely immersed by the artistry and beauty as Oscar's night passed.  The last time I experienced anything as stunning was watching a sunset from a mountain top in Vermont; the colors became so intense they made their own sounds, filling the air around with light and music until the sun disappeared below the horizon, leaving me to find my way home in the dark.

Sunday, December 5, 2010 08:33 PM

1 comment:

Michael Williams said...

I forgot to mention that my friend and neighbor, Emily, helped me out with this one.

Thanks, Emily