Argentinian-born French director Gaspar Noé has made it his trademark to repulse his audience using both sound and light. His violent edits and special effects are meant to disorientate, and his camera angles and persistent flashing lights are not for the epileptic. The low frequency noise and reverberating sound effects are designed to make us feel uneasy. His films depict the more undesirable aspects of human nature, and demands us to face up to it, or leave the theatre.
Naturally they are not easy to watch, as every aspect of the filmmaking is geared towards making the audience uncomfortable. Even technically, his colour palette is extremely saturated with low contrast, the strong flashing lights from multiple angles make his characters look inhuman, and most of his scenes are either shot indoors, or in the dark. As far as I can remember, the only normal daylight shot among all his films should be from his debut feature, “Seul Contre Tous”, when towards the end, the butcher opens his window and gazes outside. Perhaps I’m wrong, and the only reason I remember it could be because of the powerful scene before, but I’m sure there can’t be many.
His most recent film, “Enter the Void” is shot in English and depicts a young American living the ‘darker’ life of Tokyo. The film isn’t about life in Tokyo itself, it is merely used as a metaphor, on people, places, dreams – far apart. But M. Noé takes full advantage of the location and its culture to propel his story. Starting with the awesome titles – we can see Noé has a keen eye for typography and a great sense of humour by the manner in which it is applied. And finally the screenplay allows the director to deploy his full repertoire of tricks and effects in a totally uninhibited fashion. There’s plenty of flashing lights and psychedelic effects that will physically strain your eyes – I did my best to remove intermittent blank frames and quivering bright lights, but some had to be left behind, so download at your own discretion.
The camera is from the viewpoint of the male lead character – a stoned drug pushing junkie – who gets killed within the first few minutes of the film. The camera even ‘bats’ eyelids for us as he goes about his task, which while hilarious at the beginning, gets a bit annoying after some time. The bulk of the very long film (nearly 3 hrs) happens after his death, as ‘he’, or his persona relives moments from the past and gazes in a detached manner at the present. He follows his friends, watches his own cremation, and more importantly follows his sister throughout the film. Through him we watch her bereave, have sex, and come to terms with their collective tragic past. Paz de la Huerta plays the sister’s role of Linda.
The camera pans through buildings and rooms as a ‘freshly dead’ Oscar enters the strip club where Linda works and watches as his sister performs, and later has sex with her Japanese lover – she has yet to be informed of her brother’s death. I’m not too sure what Paz handles briefly (top row, last but one from my graphic) is the real thing or a Tinto Brass-style appendage.
Oscar reminisces the life he lived, as a child with his mother, played by the exquisite Janice Béliveau-Sicotte, and later his first sexual experience with the mother of his friend, played by Sara Stockbridge – he remembers how he couldn’t take his mind off images of his mother even while having sex.
Memories of his sister come flooding – Oscar later watches over Linda as she discovers her pregnancy, followed by a scene of her having an abortion. The film is ambiguous about the level of their intimacy.
Linda is having a lesbian encounter with one of her friends who Oscar had once dated – their male friend simply watches, followed by some more memories of his mother, and finally an intimate look at happenings in a ‘Love Hotel’. The scene contains some explicit foootage.
There’s only brief nudity here and it is a continuation of the scene above, but very interesting nevertheless..! Oscar watches his sister Linda making love to his best friend, and goes on a mystical journey of sorts. Oscar the spirit, can now physically ‘see’ orgasm, or so M. Noé would have us believe..!