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By Zak Rye. Between low-brow and no-brow, this is unCultured, where we attempt to shed a new light on some of our favorite misunderstood and often overlooked films. This week, we scrounge through our drawers and cabinets for any drugs we may have forgotten about and dive into the psychedelic nightmare that is Gasper Noe’s Enter the Void.

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The concept of metaphysics may be the one thing that keeps me awake at night. The idea that I’ve already died, and my brain’s final moments of activity are being interpreted as years of complex and vivid life… that this might be nothing more than a dream… *shudder* I mostly blame Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s scene from Waking Life for this fear, or at least I had, until I was introduced to Enter the Void. To put it lightly, when it comes to mind-fucking, Gaspar Noé is John Holmes, Lex Steele, and Mark Davis all rolled into one freakishly gigantic member ready to tear our cerebrum a new orifice.

In experiencing Enter the Void our official advice is “turn the volume up all the way”, but you should know that within moments the onset of Enter the Void will probably leave you questioning our suggestion (and we apologize for triggering that seizure). Noé immediately bombards the viewer with a visual and sound overload, something you’d likely find in a German sex dungeon called “Probe” or the like. There’s logic to this, probably, like quickly ripping off a bandage from a week-old wound. And for those of you not familiar with the filmmaker’s work, know that you got off easy compared to his 2002 feature, Irreversible. (Don’t… look that up.) The next 2 hours and 40 minutes will be an onslaught of your optic nerves, eardrums, and sense of self, all shot in a disorienting, subjective view.

At a glance, the plot seems fairly simple, curious, and potentially predicable. Oscar (Nathaniel Brown), our tragic protagonist, is a drug dealer living in Tokyo. While delivering to a club, called “The Void” mind you, he suddenly realizes that he’s been ratted out to the police by his friend, Victor (Olly Alexander). A mad dash to the bathroom, failed attempt to flush his stash, and proclamation that he has a gun ends in Oscar’s swift death by cop. Oscar leaves his physical body, becoming a silent witness of his life both past and present, which unlocks the true nature of our plot, which is much deeper, darker, and (of course) unsettling than what the back of your Blu-Ray may have let on.

As in Irreversible, Noé toys with chronology, allowing us to observe the aftermath before the cause. As Oscar traverses his own time and space, his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta), close friend Alex (Cyril Roy), and Victor’s stories begin to unfurl in some kaleidoscopic explanation as to how things manifested into such tragedy.

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Oscar floats above a distressingly reimagined, neon-soaked version of Tokyo, often transporting into harrowing, seemingly random glimpses of his childhood. In these moments, we discover the path that led Oscar and Linda to their unfortunate present. Orphaned at a young age, the result of their parents dying in a car crash, Oscar and Linda are placed into foster care separately. Upon turning 18, Oscar receives an inheritance that allows him to move to Tokyo and after some modest hustling, he’s able to bring Linda over to live with him. In unabashed stereotypical fashion, Oscar becomes a drug dealer and Linda, a stripper. Noé also infuses a certain level of incestuous undertone to the relationship between brother and sister, and expounds on this by overtly hinting at Oscar’s sexual longing for his mother, which then transfers into an affair with Victor’s mother (which in turn causes Victor to turn on Oscar).

After Oscar’s death, describing the film in any detail seems akin to the ravings of a legitimate maniac. By entering into the minds of his friends and family, he is able to observe and influence their actions. This culminates in Linda accomplishing three things: leaving her shitty boyfriend, exploding on Victor (she tells him to kill himself), and finally getting together with Alex, which is what Oscar always wanted. Without getting (pardon the pun) too deep into it, the final scenes of Enter the Void feature Oscar inhabiting the mind of Alex while having sex with Linda. Then, because Gasper Noé never disappoints, he enters Linda’s vagina and witnesses Alex’s cum flowing into her, creating life. He suddenly finds himself experiencing his own birth, signaling the end of this jaunt through the beginning stages of brain death.

Oscar’s voyage through the afterlife is surely meant to evoke an awakening, of sorts, in its viewers. To take control of what you can, while you can. As cliché as that may be, there is a point to all of this mania: Noé’s amplified and somewhat nihilist worldview simply shows us that, despite the fragility of life and the dire consequences of our actions, there’s a much bigger picture that deserves our attention.

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Five more troubled facts about Enter the Void:

5) Much of the film’s style was influenced by Robert Montgomery’s Lady in the Lake, which Gaspar Noé saw on mushrooms at the age of 23. He spent the next 15 years constructing what would eventually become the peculiar first-person view found in Enter the Void.

4) Noe has stated that the film is in no way meant to reinforce any spiritual beliefs regarding the afterlife. The inclusion of The Book of the Dead is merely to suggest that Oscar read it, and it’s fresh enough in his mind to inhabit his thought-processes in the final moments of brain activity that exist after death.

3) In the first year its release, Enter the Void was shown in various edits and formats. Originally screened in 2009 at the Cannes Film Festival, the film was not finished and graphic artists were working behind the scenes during the screening to complete the final credits. It wasn’t until 2010 at Sundance that the definitive version was shown. Regardless of presenting an unfinished product, the film received an alleged 15 minute standing ovation at Cannes.

2) The hauntingly ambient score of Enter the Void was intended to be composed by Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter. However, Disney had already locked Daft Punk into the score for the miserable reboot of TRON: Legacy, so Noé constructed the score out of pre-existing music and sound clips from Bangalter.

1) Gaspar Noé speaks very little English, but insisted the film be in English in order to satisfy his very stringent concept of the characters. Thus, much of the dialog is improvised, and Noé had a translator on set at all times to ensure the actors were staying true to their characters in their dialogue.

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