If, like me, you’re a fan of a) television, b) sitting on your arse c) ghost stories, you may well have stumbled upon a late night TV show on some anonymous digital station that involves guttural D-list media idiot Paul Ross sat by a log fire reading ghost stories from a big black book. There have been occasions in my life where I’ve thought I’ve imagined said TV show, maybe I was ill, drank too much Lemsip or something…
I haven’t. I just Googled it. It’s called Paul Ross and his Big Black Book Of Horror.
That anecdote has almost nothing to do with Enter The Void but I’ve included it in this review because I thought it might make you laugh. No, don’t thank me, it’s fine, god knows there are precious few japes to be had in Gaspar Noé’s new film (which is a ghost story in a sense, but only in the way that 2001: A Space Odyssey is a film about monkeys). To say that its viewing is a visceral, violent often deranged experience is merely stating the facts – this story of an orphaned brother and sister trying not to drown in the sludge of Tokyo’s underbelly has around four emotional jolts per frame. But you won’t appreciate the true chaos of what you’ll have watched until you’ve let the films psychotropic insanity into your brain and allowed it to swill around for a few days.
When that’s happened, you’ll realize you’ve experienced a film that’s unlike anything you’ve ever watched.
I never subscribed to the giddy fanclub that surrounded Noé’s previous feature, 2002’s Irréversible. I thought the story-being-told-in-reverse-thing was a neat narrative trick, but the rape scene sickened (which was undoubtedly its intention, well done to all concerned) and I finished the film thinking the Argentinian had filed a work that suggested he was a talented and obviously innovative film maker who would one day make a masterpiece rather than someone who just had.
You can probably see where I’m going with this…
I haven’t seen a film better than Enter The Void this year. In its scope, in its ambition (almost every camera shot used in its 97 minutes breaks the conventions of anything I knew about filmmaking), in it’s writing, it’s narrative. But such praise is too rigid and formulaic for a film that is rarely either of those things. I think the best way to describe it’s brilliance is by explaining exactly how I felt upon leaving the cinema – which was: lost, frightened, disorientated, pleasure, confused and probably a little bit like I wanted to hug my mum. Which is an experience you can get from drinking a litre of bleach, yes, but then you probably won’t die from watching Enter The Void.
Okay, so I didn’t really understand the point Noé was trying to make. I think it’s some sort of mediation on love, sex and the deep, complicated bond between siblings, with a love letter to psychedelic drugs and Japanese nightlife thrown in there too. But I just watched a film that took me from the ground, into an airplane, through the back of a pimp’s head, down a plughole and into a vagina – upon which the screen I was watching was sprayed with CGI spunk – before settling in the serene hum of the afterlife. As far as trips go, I’ll not only forgive it for not making much sense, but I’ll suggest that whoever builds the rollercoasters at Alton Towers really needs to raise their game.
One more time for those not paying attention at the back: I haven’t seen a film better than Enter The Void this year. It is a masterpiece.