Strange Cinema: Enter the Void (2010)

This is part of an ongoing review series for the films featured on‘s Certifiably Weird list. My goal is to watch and review all of them (even if it kills me). These reviews may contain spoilers.

Enter the Void (2010)
Director: Gaspar Noé
Starring: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, & Cyril Roy

What’s it about?
Oscar and his younger sister Linda live in Tokyo and support themselves by dealing drugs. When Oscar is shot down by police, his spirit lives on in an out-of-body experience as he witnesses the aftermath of his death.

Is it any good?
There is one word to describe this film: pretentious. On the surface, it’s a fascinating concept–drug dealer dies and takes his own psychedelic journey through the afterlife. I just think it’s poorly executed. Drug trip films tend to be either visually stunning or just plain ridiculous, and they rarely have any substance. Though I personally enjoy quite a few trip movies (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in particular), I just couldn’t get into Enter the Void.

Before I get into the reasons why this film fell short for me, let me just acknowledge that it does have some incredible visuals. Gaspar Noé was heavily influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that’s definitely apparent with all the panoramic shots. You really get a sense of how bright and complicated Tokyo is through Oscar’s point of view. And speaking of point of view, I really enjoyed how everything was shot through a first-person perspective. I kind of wish more films would do this because it’s a very engaging technique.

So now that I’ve given this film some credit, it’s time to tear it down. Most of the people I know who enjoyed this movie said I had to watch it stoned to really appreciate it. That’s always a bad sign. If you have to be under the influence of anything to truly enjoy a film, it means there’s little substance to it to begin with. The drug trips in Enter the Void are just a series of kaleidoscopic images and flashing lights. They were honestly just nauseating. Granted, I’ve never dropped acid, so I really have no idea what it’s like to trip, but are the seizure-inducing lights really necessary? I felt sick by the halfway point, which made the rest of it even more painful.

The story was difficult to follow, which is something I’m used to now that I’ve seen so many film on this list. But it’s still frustrating. What I gathered from the early dialogue and brief flashbacks was that Oscar and Linda’s parents died when they were very young. They both get into drugs and Linda becomes a stripper who occasionally has sex with clients. That’s honestly all I could decipher. The point of view and nauseating camera work really distracts from the plot.

I’m a bit torn on whether or not I liked the ending. The point of view shifts to an airplane flying over Tokyo. Inside the airplane is Oscar’s mother, who is breast-feeding a baby she calls Oscar. But wasn’t she dead when the film started? Is this a flashback? The view drops back to Tokyo where Oscar’s spirit (?) witnesses his sister having sex with someone, which is an awkward sequence to begin with. But it gets even more uncomfortable when Oscar enters the guy’s head and experiences sex with his own sister. And if that wasn’t already a gross visual, Oscar’s spirit then travels inside his sister’s vagina, witnesses some thrusting, and watches a sperm fertilize an egg inside his sister’s body. What the actual fuck?

So obviously I didn’t like that part of the ending, but the very last scene is a flashback to Oscar being born. This is an interesting ending because everything comes full circle. It’s a cycle of death and rebirth, which mirrors the sentiment in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, something Oscar is fascinated with. I just wish the rest of the film could have focused more on the idea of reincarnation rather than making everything one big drug trip.

Grade: C- (for a good concept ruined by some psychedelic bullshit)
Weirdness Score: 8.5/10 (or, weird enough to rival your worst acid trip)

[Read the more in-depth 366 Weird Movies review here.]

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