Movie review: Enter the Void

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

You don't watch a film like radical French filmmaker Gaspar Noe's hallucinatory "Enter the Void." You experience it.

And that experience will vary greatly. Some will find it patently offensive and obscene. Some will find it laughable and self-indulgent. Some will find it a forcefully personal reflection on life and death.

All of these may be right to some degree, which is what makes it as hard to ignore as many will find it is to watch.

Set in an eye-blasting neon club scene in Tokyo, "Void" follows Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), an American teen for whom dealing drugs was a natural progression from indulging in them. He lives with his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta of "Boardwalk Empire"), with whom he shares a deep bond forged in a childhood tragedy.

The film opens in a fierce first-person from Oscar's perspective - the camera doesn't flinch, but it literally blinks. We tag along on his drug-fueled ride, and, soon after, as he's shot and killed in an attempted drug bust at a nightclub. The rest of the film is a blend of past and present, seen presumably through the eyes of Oscar's escaped soul.

Let me be very clear. This isn't a film for everyone. It isn't a film for most.

The opening credits - possibly the most epic in film history - list the full cast and crew in strobe-effect psychedelic glory. It's for the best, since it's likely not everyone in the theater will make it to the end of the film.

For one thing, there are graphic sexual depictions that will make many squirm. Noe's dive into the sexual psyche goes so deep, you think he should be saving something for his shrink.

It's easy to focus on the ugliness over the beauty. Noe's last film, 2003's "Irreversible," was a revenge tale told in reverse, but the indelible images of a brutal rape scene overshadowed some surprisingly tender moments that followed.

Likewise here. Though it isn't as well-acted as "Irreversible," "Void" holds an oddly uplifting perspective on the last moments of life and what comes after that.

If you feel like you're up to the challenge, "Void" is a visual marvel that begs to be seen on the big screen. It's a lengthy two-and-a-half-hours-plus, but leave some free time after. You'll be discussing what you just saw.

"Enter the Void"

Opens Friday at the Gateway

3.5 stars out of 4