Movies are meant to provoke a response in us. Whether it be laughter, joy, fear, anger or sorrow – we as the audience are meant to be engaged. I’m not sure if this was the intention of the makers of the film Enter the Void, but after sitting through almost three hours of their movie, I seriously was ready to end it all.
What a load of crap! I have never had such an adverse reaction to a film. I felt so angry and frustrated, and quite frankly, somewhat visually raped. Even writing this post, I still feel quite worked up. I’ve seen my fair share of violent films, but the obsessive emphasis on sex and drugs -- to the point that I felt utterly bludgeoned by both -- made the film virtually unwatchable. And don’t even get me started on the relentless torture of the f@#king tracking shots used.
To give you some context of why I ended up seeing such a movie, I should say that normally I’m a fairly spoiler prone gal. I watch a lot of trailers online, I stalk movie magazines and websites and I consequently have a fairly healthy understanding of what movies I go to see are about. Breaking all my normal conventions, I went to see Enter the Void at the Melbourne International Film Festival based purely on the description of the movie on the website.
“A wild, hallucinatory mindf@#k for adults… defies cinema convention in every way.” – Screen International.
Great, I thought. I love a good mind@#k of a movie. Some of my favourite movies defy convention. Bring me a Charlie Kauffman or Christopher Nolan movie over a stock standard Jennifer Lopez rom-com any day.
Clearly this was my first misstep. Actually that’s a lie. The title of the movie really should have been my first clue of what I was in for.
The plot of the film itself is rather unremarkable. Oscar and Linda, two Americans, whose parents were killed in a car crash when they were kids -- an accident that they witnessed -- have been finally reunited in Japan. Unfortunately, Oscar is a drug addict and dealer and Linda a (pretty crap) stripper. Oscar is sleeping with his friend Alex's mother, and when Alex finds out, he arranges to get Oscar killed by the police in a raid at a club.
For the first 45 minutes or so, the camera is from Oscar’s point of view – as if the camera were lodged on his neck instead of his head. Although a fairly clichéd approach (and it certainly doesn’t help that the guy who plays Oscar is not a particularly good actor), this half of the movie was relatively engaging. Or perhaps I’m remembering it too fondly in comparison to the agony, misery, woe (and every other possible descriptor) that came afterwards. For after Oscar dies, we continue to follow him, but now everything is seen from above as if from the POV of Oscar’s dead spirit.
And what complete torture! Instead of cutting from one scene that the dead Oscar is observing to the next, the camera dives in and out of lights before flying over buildings in endless tracking shots before settling in the next location. This happens at least 20 or 30 times in the second half of the film, to the point that I was ready to scream. This whole section of the movie went for an hour and fifteen minutes!! I know. I counted. The slow ass pacing coupled with the relentless strobe light effects, boring storyline and dull pulsating soundtrack make this sequence absolute agony. Every time the camera dived into yet another light, I was begging that the movie be over soon. The multitude of endings in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King now seems tame in comparison.
The whole thing culminates in a ridiculous sequence where virtually every character in the film is having sex (quite graphically) in a Love Hotel -- even poor Oscar, now via the visual perspective of a friend, consummating his unspoken but clearly obvious incestuous desires for his sister. I guess we were meant to take away some kind of life-affirmation from this, but it all seemed too farcical for its own good.
Many reviews I have read since watching Enter the Void claim that while the movie is designed to make you uncomfortable, that’s not the point -- the point is the filmmaking. I’m all for a movie pushing the boundaries. Many movies can be excruciating to watch and yet still be fantastic. But when the movie is unapologetically thin drivel and claims that it is filmmaking art by hiding behind a cloak of pretentiousness – then I have some issues! Pace, Plot, Style – these things make filmmaking. Not a half dozen gimmicky shots that could pass as avant-garde.
If only I’d had the foresight to know that I should have walked out after the first hour.