“HEY! DRUGS ARE BAD!” That’s Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void in a nutshell. The all-caps is appropriate.
From the opening credits that pulse like strobes at an all-night rave through the ambiguous ending, Noe pummels his thesis with subtlety of a jackhammer. Of course, subtlety is not in the director’s vocabulary. While not as immediately punishing as his previous film, the anti-vengeance and violence masterpiece Irreversible, with its nine-minute-long rape scene and equally graphic fire extinguisher head-bludgeoning (both presented in single, uninterrupted shots), Enter the Void is just as blunt and affecting — but in entirely different ways.
Told from the first-person perspective of an American drug dealer living in Tokyo, the film follows the dominoes that fall after he is shot dead by police in a nightclub called The Void.
Post-death, he leaves his body to float above the city, watching the devastation that his passing has on those in his life, in particular his stripper sister (Paz de la Huerta) whom he recently reunited with after being separated as youths following their parents’ death. Interspersed are flashbacks detailing the events that led to the present misfortune, showing how a na�ve young man fell into an underbelly full of coke, LSD, DMT and all assortment of drugs, and dragged his equally na�ve sister down with him.
Stylistically, Enter the Void is incredible, weaving ethereally (and constantly) through a day-glow urban amusement park to voyeuristically peer on scenes of emotional, physical and sexual destruction. It’s a perfect representation of the lost and alone. Noe’s re-creations of the drugs’ effects are some of cinema’s most impressive psychedelic moments — tripped-out kaleidoscopes of surging lights, patterns, haze, euphoria and paranoia.
Unfortunately, the plot drags down the visual and auditory pleasures. The film meanders into tangents far too often, making it feel much longer than its over two-and-a-half hour running length. The events that befall the characters — and their reactions to them — are amped to ridiculous extremes. Enter the Void crams its cautionary tale into viewers’ mouths with a shovel when a spoon would work just fine. Grade: C