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Enter the Void

From my experiences with video games, I am quite familiar with many of the cinematic techniques that can be used to make an audience feel as though media is being directly experienced from a first-person point of view. Video games fundamentally have a drive to explore such an idea, because interaction is part of the experience, which allows for more immersion. But even in the realm of video games, there are many times where a first-person perspective is used to emulate the experience of looking around a world with an absence of interaction, used to point our eyes exactly where they should be looking at exactly the right time.

The main character's hands are seen from a first-person perspective handling drugs.

Enter Enter the Void, a first-person perspective of the experience of a man who gets shot and dies, from the moments before the shooting to the film’s take on what happens in the afterlife. We hear a character explain what we’re about to see in the afterlife before our character actually dies, which cheapens the experience a bit, but also comments on how we might actually be correct with one of our many explanations. I wanted to like the film very much, because such a take on perspective would seem to have a wealth of potential. There are moments throughout the film where strokes of brilliance occur, and there is a ton, a metric fucking ton, of transitions in which we fly over and through buildings, looking down on Tokyo’s structures and filth and sex, some of which is related to the concerns established by our character, and some of which is not. These are long sequences, and moving through walls and buildings is a very old technique that rarely has a purpose worth mentioning. And they occur often. One would hope that footage was being re-used rather than created every time, but one would hope even more that it was possible for these sequences to have never existed. There are different transition techniques used in the film to transport from one place to another instantaneously, and while I didn’t like them much either, the time saved is efficient and necessary for the piece-by-piece unfolding of the key events we witness.

An overhead shot of someone standing in a cramped doorway with another just outside it.

Long transitions aside, the visuals of the Void are sometimes intriguing, and usually geared either toward representing what one might see on their final trip, or toward entertaining those currently on one. A focus on DMT is intriguing, simply because of the historically popular claim that it is released to the brain when one dies, providing the so-called “life flashing before one’s eyes” experience. I couldn’t comment on the legitimacy of such a statement, but it’s a fun concept to consider nonetheless. We see a few glimpses of flat-out colors and computer-animated objects floating around with strange sounds for ambiance, and there are many neon lights and some dance club strobes to smooth out the experience. The film manages to be visually appealing often, but also often falls short of its mark, and given that it is so long this doesn’t come as a surprise.

A red group of tentacles moves around with various other shapes around them.

There are short moments of brilliance throughout the film, which is mainly what kept me watching. When we revisit the beginning moments of the film through our character’s altered perception once again, either his memory or the truth turns out to be different; dialog becomes simpler or simply nonexistent, and while this is an old and classic concept _Void _used it very well. Much of the beginning of the movie is sufficiently stimulating and effective in portraying a first-person perspective, and all of the situations in which we see our character’s body from behind, hovering a few feet back from every situation that he revisits, work well in creating the feeling of both being the character while also being abstracted from all of the situations.

Our main character and sister sit in the grass together.

One of the bigger complaints I have about The Void is some of the raw content; one of the most important relationships is defined between our character and his sister, and is called upon for emotional moments ruthlessly with the help of a horrific accident in their past. There’s the promise to be together forever, the inevitable separation of the two characters, and while I felt susceptible to the moments in which it was clear the audience should become emotional the relationship felt thin and hollow at the same time, leaving me at a distance and wondering what I should be focusing on through the ride. And many times we’re reminded - the horrific accident. The way in which it is presented, sometimes methodically, sometimes for shock value, was clever and even frightening, which improved the aesthetic that the relationship gives to the experience, but that wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied throughout.

A shot of the neon "Love Hotel" model.

Near the end of the film, things get a bit sillier and a bit messier, until the final conclusion left me feeling depressed at the concept of reincarnation. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, and I’m still not, but this film didn’t make it seem appealing to me. It did leave me feeling as though I had a pretty good idea of how it would go, which is a rather big accomplishment, even if pieces of it were lacking. It’s a complete package; you get the good, and you get the bad, and there are no apologies for its delivery. But as much as I want to, I can’t get behind a film with moments in it in which I want the film to be over. Was the length really necessary, with all of the things I viewed as non-essential? I’m glad I watched it, I’m sad I couldn’t see in the theater, but I’m also left with the thought that regardless of the bits in the film I enjoyed, even though I really enjoyed them, this film just didn’t do it for me as a whole.

Rating: Worth Seeing (if you find the concepts intriguing)

Notes

This film has an incredible credit sequence, which alone was enough to make me glad I watched the film. It is certainly a bit reminiscent of the Scott Pilgrim credit sequence, which I also love, but is quite different in what it aims to accomplish.