jack’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of those films that's justifiable from both ends of the critical assessments; on one end, "Enter the Void" is one of the most moronic and masturbatory films I've probably ever seen, where every sort of nonsensical idea is surrounded in shiny neon colors and gliding camerawork. But on the other side, I can't deny that this is one of the most beautiful works of visual narrative released in the 21st Century, where its themes lie within the colors and gliding camerawork. Both ideas work, I can't argue anyone against or for this work: it deserves to be polarizing.
And if I'm being honest, I'm not too sure where I fall on the spectrum for this one, because it's a hard film to decipher in the way of what you felt; I probably fall somewhere in-between, who exactly knows? Because for me, this is what filmmaking is truly meant to do: build upon itself and become such a sensory overload of atmosphere and poeticism through its images. But the film comes off as so alienating with how it's exactly shot: behind Oscar (and after he dies, through his view as a transcending spirit over Japan), which is made to feel as though we're there or something, but it feels too secluded from us; it feels as though we're waiting for Oscar to move. That way, Noe's sensory stimulate can spell upon us and guide us through the world (note: this problem isn't really there after Oscar dies - except when it cuts back to different memories and things like that) that he so desperately wants us to see. When we finally get the chance to get on the ride and experience it first hand, it's already lost its touch because we're still able to see behind Oscar; perhaps I would've dropped the gimmick completely and make it fully first person, but what do I know?
Then the other major qualm is the narrative, itself. As much as everyone wants to argue, neon doesn't always equal a narrative and "Enter the Void," in all its bastardization of the neon, blurs the lines between the positive and the negative; it's a visually stimulating trick, one that feels so absorbing and oddly warm, but also distracting and derivative of what the film seems to be about and it feels at times, Noe doesn't really know either, instead getting lost in the visual aesthetic and neglecting a story.
But the more I think about "Enter the Void," the more it makes sense to me at what it seems to be about and if Noe's style is more meaningful than it initially looks; the film is about the emptiness that seeps in us and strikes us like a snake bite at the worst times. For this, it's Oscar observing his life unfold in front of him and witnessing life unfold without his presence. Oscar's already not a welcoming and understandable lead, but it's the point: we don't want to get taken up with Oscar, but Oscar's experiences and the atmosphere that he encases himself in and the people Oscar has relationships with and then realizing that that no longer matters.
In particular, Noe glides us at exploring the (for lack of a better word) strange relationship between Oscar and his younger sister; the two have a bond perhaps stronger than any solid force, but it's a complex one at that. Having survived a car accident that left them orphans and being separated not too long afterwards, it's clear the siblings deeply care for one another, but act in such a way that feels too strange. After Oscar dies, Linda is forced to live as one and we, through Oscar's spirit, are forced to watch Linda transform and progress as a character both attempting to keep her sanity and grieve as much as she possibly can. Their connection is now empty, tangibility is dissolved and thrusted into the emptiness of spaces. Through this chaotic, dreamlike odyssey, we see this happen. They never wanted to leave one another and Oscar makes sure that he's always there for Linda, even if she can't see or hear him.
If this sums up what my journey of Gaspar Noe is presumed to be (difficult, to say the least) then I'm at least going to try to experience his other works with the same trepidations as this one had for me and just consume it all, bit by bit. I can't say I'll enjoy or love this in a rewatch, but I'm so taken aback at the structure of this thing that I can't help but rate it positively, even though it's still as moronic as I think it is. I also watched this tripping balls; during this viewing, I forgot how to use my legs and had to crawl to the bathroom. College is something, gang.