Film Reviews

Enter The Void (2009) – Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

Contains major spoilers!

New from Arrow Video is this release of Gaspar Noe‘s 2009 film Enter the Void. Nathaniel Brown – at this point not a professional actor – portrays Oscar, a young drug dealer living in Tokyo with his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) who works as a stripper.

When arriving at a nearby nightclub – The Void – with his friend Alex (Cyril Roy), he is met with an apology from an acquaintance, Victor (Olly Alexander), for what is about to happen. It turns out the police have been alerted to Oscar’s drug dealing, and in the course of attempting to flush his stash he is shot dead in the toilets.

Appearing to leave his body, Alex’s spirit – after seeing his sister informed of his murder – revisits aspects of his life that brought him to this point. These include his close childhood relationships with his mother and his sister, his parents’ death in a car accident, his separation from his sister into different foster homes, his starting to deal drugs in order to fund bringing Linda to Tokyo, and the events that led Victor to turn on him and inform police of his activities.

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With events coming full circle to his death, the final act of the film deals – again from Oscar’s perspective – with events after his shooting, as we see Linda struggle with the loss of her brother but find solace in Alex. The film ends with his sister pregnant, and Oscar reliving his own birth.

On the way to the nightclub, Alex and Oscar had been discussing The Tibetan Book of the Dead, that postulates that the spirit of a dead person sometimes stays among the living until it begins to experience nightmares, after which it attempts to reincarnate. This raises questions as to what we are seeing, is this a dream at the point of Oscar’s death, or his spirit looking for peace. Is his birth at the end of the film part of this dream, or a time looped effective reincarnation, with time not being linear?

The film gives much to think about, but it does it as part of a cold, distancing work, led by actors that really do not have the personality to stamp any authority on their roles. The characters are morally fluid, somewhat broken, and the siblings’ relationship borders on the incestuous, with Oscar even inhabiting his sister’s lover at one point. This is a  certificate 18 release with frank depictions of sex, but all with a soullessness that makes this a probable one-time watch. The concept is far, far more interesting than the execution, but it does, at least, give the viewer things to think about.

The film is presented in both the 143-minute theatrical version, as well as the 161-minute director’s cut, and differences between the two versions are relatively minor, with neither really standing out as preferred. A note on this though: Noe talked of exhibiting the film at 25, rather than 24 frames per second, much as PAL is as a format to NTSC. This appears to have happened here, as neither cut is at the advertised length, both coming in 6-7 minutes shorter than the times listed above. As a relatively new film, there is no great restoration needed here, and picture and sound are both fine, even if the visuals are a strange mix of the overbearing and the desaturated.

Extras are kicked-off with ‘Enter the Sensorium’, a video essay by film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicolas, which focuses mainly on visuals and is… fine. Next up is the standout bonus feature, ‘Tom Kan: The Art of the Titles’, a 37-minute interview with the designer of the film’s titles, newly shot for this release. He goes in-depth, with the help of some demonstrations on his Mac, on how he created the titles for his various collaborations with this director, and how he interacted with Noe on set, taking a lot of photos, some of which are shared with us here. He is a likeable subject, and he actually has things to say. Having not heard of him at the start of this, attention was held throughout.

There are a number of deleted scenes presented, but of these, several are just a few shots – none of them really amount to much. There is a ten-minute feature on the making of the film’s special effects, but this is just shots from the film being deconstructed into its constituent parts and then put back together for the viewer. It does demonstrate the amount of ‘hidden’ work in the film, but even at this length, it outstays its welcome.

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The next two features are ‘Vortex’ and ‘DMT Loop’; these are a few minutes each and simply present the full version of some of the visuals we see of Alex’s perspective when drug taking early in the film. They are strangely relaxing to watch. Trailers for the film include the French and international theatrical offerings, eight teasers, and three that were not used in the final campaign. The set is rounded off with an image gallery.

Of all the recent releases from Arrow, this is the film that would most benefit from a director’s commentary, as this would have been elevated by more insight into the thought processes behind this film. What we are left with is a decent enough set for a fascinating film, just one that is far easier to admire than to love.

Enter The Void is out on Blu-ray on 30th May from Arrow Video.

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