The highly allucinogenic film title

My relationship with Rio Cinema is an odd one. Not only do I choose to watch the most eccentric features there – for it is one of the few screening rooms in London to retain an authentic indie character – but along the years it has provided me with a few interesting experiences: a friend who had a fit and passed-out during Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’; the company of a wicked, hell-raised audience of black metal fans cheering (read guttural roaring) at the creepy Norwegian documentary ‘Until the Light Takes Us’; and a partner who experienced severe drowsiness and sickness in the first 15 minutes of ‘The Bell and the Butterfly’ and left.

It was no different this time with ‘Enter the Void’, the latest film by Gaspar Noe – and yet again I was left on my own within the 10 minute mark (it’s a record break!).

Scenes from Enter the Void

Although not as shocking as the unforgettably disturbing ‘Irreversible’ (2002) – which still makes me have bad dreams, sometimes – it carries his trademark for aesthetic experimentation and elliptical narrative combined with sickening doses of crude reality.

Right from the start the director punches the audience in the very nose with a title sequence that is as schizophrenic and disorienting as it can get: the variety of Barnbrook-esque bold typefaces presented in day-glow colours at light-speed are  accompanied by a loud, pounding beat that made my brain flush so much adrenalin into my bloodstream that I felt my limbs incredibly tense for a good half an hour. After such a promising start you are immediately thrown into a highly hallucinogenic trip, remaining so throughout the film, which for some it might sound like a prolonged session of optical agony. But that is certainly not the case. Quite on the contrary, the film has the merit of accomplishing a remarkably aesthetic result and inventively refreshing the exhausted ‘subjective camera’. Both greatly help the audience to navigate along with Oscar, the main character, in his transcendental journey across Tokyo to stay together with his sister (the übber hot Paz de la Huerta). By doing so, Gaspar Noe also explores the possibility to build a multi-layered story where drugs, transcendence, suggested incest, and Oedipal love all come together to create a highly kinetic yet metaphysical cinematic experience.

Paz de la Huerta as Linda

I would go as far as to say that, with Enter the Void, Gaspar Noe has thwarted the likes of Darren Aronofsky, Danny Boyle and even Uli Edel in their attempt to portrait the experience of a real high on the screen, providing the viewers with a  drug-induced pseudo trip. But the film has more to offer than drugs, violence and sex. It tells a story of Western individuals in a foreign land, living on the fringes of an unfamiliar culture which inscribes them with the otherness stigma. Most of the characters are either American or European expats living off drug-dealing and prostitution.

Certainly not suitable for the faint-hearted, Enter the Void manages, once again, to pull the audience out of the safe zone and without digression it shows us the ugly face of urban life and the misfortunes of its inhabitants. As for me, I might as well go on my own next time.