When my roommate logged on to Netflix and started playing 2009’s “Enter the Void,” I had absolutely no expectations – I had never even heard of the film before. After only a few minutes, I was stunned by the movie: from its first-person point of view, to the beautiful computer generated visuals the main character watched on the ceiling after he smokes DMT. By the time the movie finished I was convinced I had never been on a more intensely substantial journey before – at least through a movie.
Early on in this French film, we are witness to the conversations of the main character Oscar, played by Nathaniel Brown, with his friend Alex, played by Cyril Roy, discussing “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” The two discuss the Tibetan Buddhist ideals on life and death and reincarnation, and while it might seem like just another discussion in a movie, the concepts and ideas quickly become the overall journey of the film. As Oscar is shot and killed in Tokyo when his friend betrays him, the spiritual journey begins, and the viewer – from the still first-person perspective of Oscar after death – is brought along as he witnesses everything that led to his death, everything that happens because of his death, and his very own reincarnation.
While Nathaniel Brown’s portrayal of Oscar might not be the most incredible performance of all time, the acting is purposefully bland – the point of the first-person perspective is to have the viewer put themselves in Oscar’s place, not the other way around. Oscar’s sister, Linda, played by Paz de la Huerta, has a considerably more notable performance, and – with Oscar’s early death – plays a key role in the film. Victor, the character responsible for betraying Oscar and indirectly causing his death, is brought alive by Olly Alexander, who plays his role to perfection. These performances might not be given the attention they deserve due to the film’s shocking content and direction that demand the viewer’s attention, but this remarkable group of actors really do deserve recognition for their excellent performances.
One of the key features of the movie is the previously mentioned first-person perspective, and it is imperative that the viewer keeps in mind that they are viewing everything from Oscar’s perspective. It is from this perspective that all meaning can be derived from the movie, as Oscar’s continued perspective after his death is the exploration of Tibetan Buddhist thought. The first-person quality is also the reason that Oscar’s death scene was one of the most shocking scenes I have ever watched – the fear and desperation of Oscar is absolutely felt by the viewer, along with the surprise of being shot.
Along with the unique perspective, the overall visual and audio style of the movie is simply brilliant. When Oscar smokes DMT, beautiful computer-generated visuals come alive on the walls and spaces on screen, and frames will alter from normal to tinted with different colors and aspects. Even when Oscar dies, the incredibly artistic style of the film is not abandoned, and actually becomes more and more intense. Along with the visual aspect of the film’s artistic style, the audio is just as uniquely intelligent. Voices of characters who are not there sometimes can be heard, sounds from Oscar’s memories leak in and out of the movie’s reality and the oft-prominent soundtrack grabs and guides the viewer through the experience.
Nothing could prepare any potential viewer of “Enter the Void” for its artistic style with audio and visuals, just as nothing could prepare any potential viewer for the movie’s ridiculously explicit nature. If this movie were to have a content warning, basically every taboo aspect of life would have to be involved in the warning. Sex and love are key parts of the movie’s exploration and journey, and a large portion of the movie features hardly censored sexual activity. Along with all of the sexuality, drugs and drug dealing play a part in the film, as well as death, incestuous undertones and traumatizing childhood events. The movie has no fear and explores every subject without holding back, so be warned.
“Enter the Void” is an incredible movie that breaks ground no one has braved before, and is a meaningful exploration of Tibetan Buddhist thought on life, death and reincarnation. The artistic style is unlike anything you have ever experienced, as visual and audio treatment is radical and well done. It has been a while since a movie has impacted me as much as this one had, and I was left basically speechless for a brief time afterwards. If you are looking for a movie that is unlike anything you have ever seen before – and you are alright with the content – “Enter the Void” might be the movie to watch.